2,000 Moms Share How School Plans Will Impact Back to School Purchases
For many, including retailers and brands, the 2020 Back to School (BTS) season is
surrounded by more question marks than a high school calculus exam.
This year, thanks to COVID-19, households aren’t just asking questions about courses, teachers, and extracurricular activities, many are asking a much more fundamental question:
Will my child even go back to school in the fall?
Naturally, the answer to this question could have enormous implications for BTS shopping.
And speaking of BTS questions, here’s a doozy:
How will decisions by local governments and schools—specifically, whether they opt for in-person, virtual, or a hybrid classes in the fall—influence what households buy this BTS season?
With the dog days of summer upon us, and tax-free shopping in swing, we decided to do the only reasonable thing: ask mom.
She usually knows.
2,000 Moms Surveyed about BTS Purchases
As we did with our 2020 BTS Report, we turned to moms to better understand the upcoming BTS shopping season. Through the Field Agent on-demand platform, Endcaps & Insights surveyed 2,020—cute, huh?—mothers* of K-12 children.
*All respondents were U.S. adults and smartphone owners at least 18 years of age; all respondents were mothers of at least one child entering K-12 at the start of the 2020 school year. The survey was executed entirely through the Field Agent mobile app on July 29, 2020. Demos: Female - 100%; Age - 18-24 (2%), 25-34 (28%), 35-44 (48%), 45-54 (18%), 55+ (3%); Caucasian (63%), Hispanic (17%), African-American (14%), Other (6%). Note: Data were weighted to more accurately reflect the racial distribution of the U.S. general population. Household composition - Have boys entering K-2nd Grade (26%), Boys 3rd-5th (20%), Boys 6th-8th (17%), Boys 9th-12th (20%), Girls K-2nd (23%), Girls 3rd-5th (17%), Girls 6th-8th (17%), Girls 9th-12th (21%).
We specifically explored how decisions by governments and schools to adopt an in-person, virtual, or hybrid format this fall could impact what families purchase this BTS shopping season?
According to the respondents themselves, we ultimately surveyed:
- 532 moms (26% of the sample) who say they’ll homeschool their children this year regardless of school plans
- 963 moms (48%) who say they know, based on decisions already made by their local governments/schools, how their children will return to school
- 523 moms (26%) who say they still don’t know how their children will return to school
Of course, each nuance—outside the home vs. in-home; knowing vs. not knowing; in-person vs. virtual vs. hybrid—could impact BTS purchases. For this reason, we break down the results below to illuminate any differences based on plans by governments and schools.
What Will You Buy Your Children to Start the 2020 Back to School Season?
So let's take a look at this question from three different perspectives:
- Households that know how their kids will return to school in the fall
- Households that don't know
- Households that plan to homeschool their kids regardless
Households that know their school's plans
First, let's look at those households that already know whether their K-12 students will attend classes in-person, virtually, or through some hybrid approach.
As the chart immediately below suggests, decisions by local governments and schools could exert a strong influence on what families purchase for BTS this year.
Consider some highlights:
- Among households that know their kids will return to in-person classes, 86% say they'll buy clothes for the new school year, a number that drops to 48% for households whose schools will deliver course content virtually
- We witnessed a whopping 41-point difference among households that plan to buy backpacks, 71% for, let's call them, in-person households and 30% for virtual households
- And look at electronics. Exactly half (50%) of virtual households plan to buy electronics for BTS, compared to 46% of hybrid households and 34% of in-person households
Clearly, delivery format—in-person, hybrid, or virtual—could play a major role in BTS purchase decisions, at least among families that know their school's plans.
But what about those that don't?
Households that don't know their school's plans
For this group, the survey posed three different scenarios. We asked moms to tell us what they would purchase for their kids this BTS season under all three delivery formats seen above: in-person, virtual, and hybrid.
Many of the same themes surfaced, precipitous differences between in-person households and virtual households on purchases like clothes, footwear, backpacks, food for packed lunches, and athletic gear.
Where households don't yet know their school's plans, but where they were asked to imagine their children will return under a virtual format, purchase intentions toward items like backpacks and athletic gear were even more dismal.
For instance, among those who know their kids will attend school virtually, 30% said they'll buy backpacks regardless, compared to only 8% among households who don't know their school's plans but assumed their school will adopt a virtual delivery format.
Households that plan to homeschool regardless of school plans
And, finally, the homeschoolers. These households plan to homeschool their children this year regardless of decisions by local governments and schools.
What will their BTS purchases look like?
The chart below shows their purchase intentions.
Okay Students, What Did We Learn?
Simply put, we learned brands and retailers have every right to be concerned about decisions by governments, schools, and households about course-delivery formats this fall.
Though the health of students and their families should be foremost, this survey suggests these decisions could also greatly impact the health of something else: BTS sales and the brands, categories, and retailers that rely on them.
But there's much more to be said about the 2020 BTS shopping season. It's not too late to download Field Agent's free 2020 BTS Report (see below).
Free 2020 Back to School Report
Based on a survey of 1,443 moms of K-12 students, Field Agent’s free 2020 BTS Report is loaded with 35 pages of insights into this year’s BTS shoppers.
The report explores questions like:
- Will families spend more or less on BTS this year?
- Will they shop for supplies and attire in-store or online?
- What supplies, groceries, etc. do they expect to purchase?
- What questions, concerns, and suggestions do they have about BTS shopping through an outbreak?
- How do they expect to alter their shopping behavior this year?
Download the 2020 BTS report below.