Parents have reasons to shop in-store for back-to-school

Most mothers in a survey expect to make multiple trips and a relatively small amount of online purchases.

With the back-to-school season fast approaching, the majority of parents plan to shop at two or more physical stores for the children’s school supplies this year, while just over 40% intend to make at least 6% of their purchases online, according to a new report by Field Agent.

The firm’s findings follow those of another recent report by marketing intelligence firm MiQ, which found that roughly one-third of back-to-school shopping will take place through ecommerce channels this year. While MiQ’s survey examined trends in the U.K., Australia, the U.S. and Canada, Field Agent’s was based exclusively on responses from 512 Canadian mothers with children entering Kindergarten to Grade 12 this year, conducted through the company’s mobile app between July 3 and 14.

According to the report by Field Agent, only 38% of respondents expect not to do any online back-to-school shopping this year. Meanwhile, 20% plan to complete anywhere from 1% to 5% of their shopping that way, and 12% say it will account for 6 to 10% of their purchases. Only 1% of respondents anticipate making the vast majority of their purchases online (more than 96%).

Virtually all parents expect to make trips (sometimes several) to physical stores: 14% plan to visit one store, 67% two to three stores, 13% four to five stores and 4% more than five stores. In comparison, MiQ found that 73% of back-to-school shoppers expect to make multiple trips (each lasting between 30 to 45 minutes) in a bid to save money.

Field Agent’s report did not examine the motivations behind making numerous trips, but did look at the reasons shoppers continue to go in-store. They include parents who say their kids “like” doing so (53%) to those who say it’s simply “more fun” (34%). Twenty-six percent say they find it harder shopping for supplies online, while 23% cite the inconvenience of waiting for online deliveries.

Overall spending is expected to increase this year – a finding again echoed by MiQ as part of a five-year trend – with 44% saying they expect to spend more, according to Field Agent. Forty-seven percent plan to spend about the same as last year, while 9% expect to spend less.

With the added spending comes price sensitivity: 49% of shoppers describe it as their primary consideration, followed by quality (34%) and convenience (12%). Meanwhile, visual appeal, loyalty and habit and brand name were each the most important considerations for less than 3% of back-to-school shoppers.

Field Agent’s report includes a list, which can be found below, of what is expected to be the most frequently visited retailers (both online and in-store) and the most frequently purchased products this year.

Products most likely to be purchased by respondents

1. Footwear (95%)
2. Food for packed lunches (93%)
3. Clothes (not footwear) (92%)
4. Basic school supplies (88%)
5. Backpacks (80%)
6. Hygiene items (hand sanitizer) (71%)
7. Athletic equipment/gear (52%)
8. Electronics (calculators) (45%)
9. Medications/vitamins (40%)

Physical stores most likely to be visited

1. Walmart (83%)
2. Staples (40%)
3. Dollarama (38%)
4. Costco (33%)
5. Superstore (31%)
6. Dollar Tree (16%)
7. Giant Tiger (14%)
8. SDM / Pharmaprix (13%)
9. Loblaw Market (9%)
10. Canadian Tire (9%)
11. Nofrills / Maxi (8%)
12. Sobeys / IGA / Safeway (7%)
13. London Drugs (5%)

Online stores most likely to be visited

1. (81%)
2. (35%)
3. (20%)
4. (12%)
5. Other (5%)