What Really Frustrates Back to School Shoppers? 500 Moms Speak Out

Back to School Shopping Frustrations

Before the bell rings marking the dawn of yet another school year, millions of families will flock to stores and buy everything from pencils to blue jeans to fruit cups for brown bag lunches. And there, either out in front or behind the scenes, will be that most important figure in back-to-school shopping: Mom. This weekend we surveyed 500 moms across the country to find out what about back-to-school shopping most frustrates them, providing companies important clues on how to better serve customers during the critical BTS shopping season and beyond.  

They’re the real power brokers of the Back-to-School shopping season: Moms. Where there’s a K-12 student, mom is usually not far behind—buying school supplies, recommending clothing styles, packing lunches. Naturally, mom will be responsible for much of the back-to-school spending taking place over the next several weeks, projected by the National Retail Federation to reach $24.9 billion.

We already know: “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

This expression, featured on everything from t-shirts to home decorations, has never been more true than it is right now for brands and retailers vying to win Back-to-School 2015.

But what exactly makes mom most unhappy about back-to-school shopping? This weekend Field Agent conducted a survey with 500 mothers of K-12 students. We specifically asked, “In your own words, what is the most frustrating or inconvenient part of back-to-school shopping?”

Here are the top 5 frustrations moms have with back-to-school shopping, in their own words:

 

"[The most frustrating part] is definitely the cost. I do not make much and with all the supplies and clothes...it adds up." - 46 year-old mom, South Bend, Indiana

Frustration #1. High costs

 

As a recent article of ours points out, the average American family will spend $630.36 on back-to-school shopping in 2015 (National Retail Federation). That’s no small amount, especially when you consider the average family spent $861 on Christmas gifts last year (American Research Group).

But, according to our survey, moms are well aware that BTS shopping gets costly. In fact, 30% of mothers in our study cited the high cost of back-to-school merchandise, or difficulty finding the right price, as a major frustration. As a 46-year-old mom from South Bend, Indiana commented, “[The most frustrating part] is definitely the cost. I do not make much and with all the supplies and clothes...it adds up.”

Our recent research into back-to-school shopping showed that 79% of mothers agree with the statement: “Back to school shopping is a strain on my personal budget.” In other words, many agree with a mom from Cape Girardeau, Missouri who said, “The cost and amount of school supplies continue to increase every year along with constant wardrobe or dress code changes every year…” No wonder 88% of families in our survey said they must save for BTS shopping.

 

Frustration #2: Out-of-stocks

 

21% of mothers mentioned out-of-stocks among their chief frustrations

 

21% of mothers mentioned out-of-stocks/limited product availability among their chief frustrations with the back-to-school shopping season. One mother from St. Louis, Missouri said it like this: “The most frustrating part is having a specific item on a required back to school list that is out of stock or hard to find.” She went on to cite red pencils as an example. Consider a few additional remarks:

"Schools are very specific about certain items and those items are usually sold out everywhere since everyone is buying the same thing!"
(35-year-old mom, Loranger, LA)

"Going to a store to find an item advertised for a certain price and they do not have any in stock - under stocked sales items." 
(42-year-old mom, Amarillo, TX)

"The most frustrating and inconvenient part of back-to-school shopping is when the stores don't have enough of sale items in stock." 
(37-year-old mom, Avondale, AZ)

Mobile Audits from Field Agent are the perfect safeguard against untimely out-of-stocks during the BTS shopping season or other critical Q3 and Q4 selling events.

 

Fortune 500 companies rely on our Mobile Audits to safeguard against Out-of-Stocks - Sign up now

 

Frustration #3: Crowded, disorganized store aisles

 

“Being in a crowded store,” answered a 25-year-old mom from Oviedo, Florida, when asked what she finds most frustrating about BTS shopping. “You are down an aisle with 7 other people and everyone is trying to grab the same item.” These words rang true with several moms, about 20%, in our survey.

In fact, some compared BTS shopping to Black Friday: “Common school supplies are often kept in narrow aisles and with huge crowds. Due to short duration sales and tax holidays it can seem like Black Friday shopping” (33-year-old mom, Bristow, VA). Simply stated, many moms wish for more wide-open spaces come BTS time.

 

"Common school supplies are often kept in narrow aisles and with huge crowds. Due to short duration sales and tax holidays it can seem like Black Friday shopping." - 33 year-old mom, Bristow, VA

 

Frustration #4: Elusive items

 

Our research found that 88% of households use a school-furnished list to guide their purchases of school supplies (Read the article here). But what happens when a mom can’t find one or two or twenty of those items? Frustration. In fact, when asked to express their greatest frustrations with BTS shopping, 19% of our sample mentioned difficult-to-find merchandise:

"Not finding the specific thing that is required on the lists, like specific colors of folders or oversized construction paper." 
(40-year-old, San Angelo, TX)

"It's frustrating when specific school supplies on the list from the school can't be found." 
(37-year-old, Minneapolis, MN)

 

Frustration #5: Store-hopping

 

92% of households will visit two or more stores to acquire their school supplies this year

 

As a recent article of ours highlights, it’s actually quite rare that a family will shop for school supplies at only one store. Our research shows that 92% of households will visit two or more stores to acquire their school supplies this year. Indeed, 33% of moms in our survey said they’ll visit four or more stores. However, not surprisingly, moms don’t necessarily like this:    

"The worst is not being able to find all the supplies at one store."
(37-year-old mom, Houston, TX)

"[Most furstrating is an] extensive list of supplies to buy that cannot be purchased in one store only."
(45-year-old mom, Johnson City, NY)

"It's very frustrating to not be able to find everything in one place." 
(40-year-old mom, Collierville, TN)

See our post from last year: The Facts About Back-to-School Tax Holidays

 

An A+ on In-Store Execution

If you’re looking to make an A+ on your Q3 and Q4 in-store execution, mobile auditing from Field Agent is the perfect study partner. We combine crowdsourcing and mobile technology to conduct audits more quickly, more affordably, and more broadly than traditional methods. So whether you’re in need of display audits or modular compliance, on-shelf availability or competitive analysis, let our 500,000+ agents be your eyes and ears in stores throughout the country—both during the BTS shopping season and other critical Q3/Q4 events. 

 

Download Free Back to School 2017 Report