Brand Keys: Back-to-school sales to decline; Amazon and Wal-Mart strong

New York -- Households with school-age children (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) plan a big cut-back in back-to-school spending. Results of the 2013 Brand Keys Back to School Report Card show that there will be a year-over-year decrease of 10% in back-to-school spending, or an average spend this year of just more than $600 per household.

However, not every retailer will experience a decline in back-to-school profits. This year, the eight retailers showing the greatest increase in consumer intent-to-shop were:

1. Amazon
2. Wal-Mart
3. Target
4. Macy’s
5. Zappos
6. TJ Maxx / Kohl’s
7. Best Buy / Footlocker
8. Staples

Average anticipated spending in the major back-to-school categories are all down from last year. This includes:

  • Clothing: $301 (-29%)
  • Shoes: (athletic & dress) $110 (-23%)
  • Computers/Electronics/Tablets/Smartphones: $150 (-32%)
  • Supplies: $ 39 (-60%)
  • Books/Study Aids: $ 10 (-56%)

Looking at preferred retail categories for back-to-school spending, discount stores, online platforms and, secondarily, catalogs were the only categories to show any increase. Ninety-seven percent of households will shop at discount stores (up 4%), while 72% will shop online (up 34%), 28% will shop at department stores (down 44%), 25% will patronize office supply stores (down 55%), 30% will frequent specialty retailers (down 10%) and 35% will use catalogs (up 3%).

This year’s survey showed that 70% of consumers intend to wait until the middle-to-end of August period to shop just before schools open. The genesis of the shorter back-to-school purchase cycle is a consequence of increased levels of consumer expectations, according to Brand Keys analysis.

“Some of what we’re seeing reflects concerns of a slowing economic recovery, but the specific back-to-school figures also represent a shift in consumer buying habits,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “Retailers may be running back-to-school ads right now, but they’ve been discounting and couponing for the past seven months. Educated consumers have already stockpiled supplies for the first day of school.”