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Online Shoppers to Spend More on Back-to-School

79% of consumers plan to buy school supplies on the Web.

The school year has just ended for many students, but consumers are already thinking about back-to-school—and some will begin searching out deals for next school year’s supplies as early as this month.

But don’t just look to traffic at the local mall for signs of school shopping. More of the action, it seems, is online. A PriceGrabber survey of online shoppers found that 46 percent plan to spend more for school supplies than they did in 2011. That’s up from 13 percent who said in 2011 that they would spend more than the previous year.

And while 86 percent of consumers say they will shop for school supplies at brick-and-mortar stores, 79 percent also expect to make back-to-school purchases on the Web.

Back-to-school starts earlier for more shoppers

According to the PriceGrabber survey, 17 percent of shoppers say they will start shopping for school items in June, up from 13 percent in 2011. Another 35 percent plan to wait until July, 44 percent will hold off until August and the rest will start shopping in September.

“From last year’s holiday shopping season through the middle of 2012, we have seen consumers starting to shop earlier surrounding major shopping seasons and holidays, and we expect this trend to continue this back-to-school shopping season,” says Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. “While PriceGrabber survey data reveals that many consumers are planning to spend more money this back-to-school shopping season, a few are still hesitant about spending, leading shoppers to search for deals even earlier to take advantage of retailer incentives and discounts such as free shipping, coupons and sales.”

A strong rebound from 2011?

PriceGrabber did not release projected spending amounts. However, a National Retail Federation study from 2011 found that last year’s back-to-school sales would be flat with the previous year. It also predicted value-conscious shoppers would purchase more generic-brand items and spend more time comparison shopping.

That study also estimated that just under one-third of back-to-school shoppers would make purchases online, well below PriceGrabber’s projected figure for 2012.

NRF has not yet released its 2012 back-to-school shopping projections.

About the author

Crista Souza
Crista Souza is founding editor of A journalism graduate of San Jose State University, she spent 13 years as a business and technology reporter in Silicon Valley. Crista has been writing about B2C and C2C ecommerce since 2008. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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