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    Back to School 2024-25 Survey: Parents Are Preparing to Outspend Themselves

    School’s out.

    For the students and parents, this time of year is focused on summertime activities and vacations.

    For the CPG brands and retailers, this is when the real testing begins: Have we calculated our Back to School strategies to hit our goals for the upcoming school year?

    Field Agent asked the true determinants of the CPG brand’s success — the parents* — about how they anticipate spending for the 2024-2025 school year. The Back to School data and insights explored below are based on 1,250 real shoppers responses on May 24, 2024.

    *All survey respondents were U.S. adults at least 18 years of age and smartphone owners. The survey was executed through the Field Agent platform, May 14–24, 2024, with a random sample of shoppers. Demos: Gender - Female (80.1%), Male (18.9%), Prefer Not to Say (1%), Age - 18-29 (6%), 30-39 (41%), 40-49 (41%), 50+ (12%); Household Income - < $35K (16%), $35-49K (14%), $50-74K (18%), $75-99K (18%), $100-125K (11%), $125K+ (14%), Prefer Not to Say (9%); Race/Ethnicity - Caucasian/White (72%), Latino/Hispanic (12%), African American/Black (9%), Asian American (5%), Native American (2%), Other (3%); Number of Children in Household - 1-2 (68%), 3-5 (31%), 6+ (1.5%)

    Infiltrating Inflation: Families to Spend More

    As always, we surveyed parents about spending first. Will your household spend more or less? How will inflation affect your overall spending? Their resounding “more” was hard to ignore.

    Table 1
    Table 2


    The average American household is gearing up to spend more than they ever have for this 2024-25 Back to School season.  More than half of the survey respondents (53%) said they’d plan to spend more money than last year, with 70% saying inflation will have a major impact.


    Table 3


    However, we see that parents are planning to stick to their routines as much as possible, with 56% saying they’re planning to shop at the same time as last year.


    Books, Brands, and Basics

    It’s more than just general school supplies that are impacted during Back to School shopping — nearly every other CPG category sees an increase as Americans do a reset for the school year. Seemingly arbitrary items like clothing, electronics, vitamins, and home storage are considered as students go back to school.

    Written in “other” responses contained mentions of sensory items, musical instruments, lunchboxes, and special homeschool/private school/co-op supplies and uniforms.

    Table 4-1


    Focus on Retailers and Complimentary Ecommerce

    Less than 0.4% of people are shopping exclusively online, but it looks like 90% will at least use some form of online pickup and delivery (OPD) for  Back to School goods. OPD gained popularity during COVID-19 school years, but it’s likely here to stay. 

    Table 5


    We asked parents why they choose to shop online rather than in-store, and they all fell in one of three categories:

    1. They want to avoid out-of-stocks
    2. They want to avoid the crowds and inconvenience
    3. They want to easily compare goods for the best deals

    "Online is the most convenient option. Further, in-stocks can be a concern."
    — Eric J, Kentucky

    "To avoid the crowds. To apply digital coupons and promotions."
    — Rachel P, Minnesota

    "On a budget, so it's easier to keep track of how much is in my cart vs trying to do it in my head in the store. Also, I'm not as distracted (impulse buying) online as I am in the store."
    — Ellie P, Wisconsin

    "I don't have to fight the crowds. Most items are available online that are sold out at the store."
    — Charlene S, TX

    With that being said, we took a look at which retailers shoppers preferred for online versus traditional in-person shopping. 

    Walmart and Amazon dominated the market for preferred Back to School shopping. 

    Table 6-3


    Due to their consistency and affordable prices, superstores like Walmart and Target have owned the Back to School space. But what about other retailers and wholesalers?

    From the last four years, we saw a significant decline in people visiting office supply stores for school supplies.

    Pause. That's a big deal, especially when we look at just three years ago — in  2021 — 31% of people surveyed said they would likely buy supplies from Office Depot or Office Max, compared to a mere 13% in 2024.

    Table 8-1


    Clothes for the Classroom

    What is Back to School without a fresh fit? Nearly 3-in-5 parents say they’ll be purchasing new clothes or shoes for their child in preparation for the 2024-25 school year. This means a significant increase in spending as families gear up for the new academic year.

    Table 9

    Target continues to gain interest from parents and students shopping for Back to School clothes, maintaining its reputation as a favorite despite Walmart's popularity for school supplies. Target's trendy, affordable options appeal to both budget-conscious parents and fashion-forward students. Meanwhile, traditional clothing retailers like Old Navy and Kohl's also see a surge during this season, as they offer competitive prices and frequent sales.

    Table 10-1


    Interestingly, thrift stores and second-hand shopping are becoming increasingly popular, driven by both economic considerations and sustainability concerns. Parents are looking for ways to balance their budgets while teaching their children the importance of recycling and reusing.


    Back to School from Years Past (Desktop Only)

    Field Agent gathered insights from years past to allow you to compare and contrast Back to School shopping habits. With this interactive dashboard, filter how trends have evolved over the years through lenses of varying demographics, time frames, and products.



    Get on the CPG Dean’s List 

    As parents prepare to outspend themselves for the 2024-25 school year, understanding these consumer trends is crucial for retailers and brands aiming to capture this lucrative market. 

    From On-Shelf Availability to ensure your products are stocked, to Display Compliance to make sure your displays are well-executed — Field Agent's comprehensive services are designed to enhance your retail strategy for the Back to School season.

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    Mobile Research, Back to School


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