Survey Reveals a Return to Pre-pandemic Back-to-School Shopping Habits

back to school shopping survey

Sensormatic Solutions released its third annual US Back-to-School Consumer Sentiment Survey July 22, 2021, finding that three quarters (76%) of consumers plan to shop in-store this year. The survey reveals a return to pre-pandemic shopping habits for the 2021 back-to-school season.

Kim Melvin
Kim Melvin

“As consumer shopping habits shift, so too should retailer’s technology,” said Kim Melvin, global leader of marketing, Sensormatic Solutions. “Flexible and scalable technology can help create new shopping experiences required to keep up with changing customer expectations and varying comfort levels for in-store shopping. Our intelligent operating platform, Sensormatic IQ, makes it easy for retailers to act on data-driven outcomes and generate the predictive and prescriptive insights they need to make informed decisions on inventory to staffing optimizations—two areas that will be important for retail success this back-to-school shopping season.”

Back to Pre-pandemic In-store Shopping Schedule

Seventy-four percent of respondents expect their children to return to fully in-person classes this year. As a result, 34 percent plan to start their back-to-school shopping (both in-stores and online) in July compared to only 17 percent of consumers in 2020 and 39 percent of consumers in 2019, marking a shift back to pre-pandemic habits. When asked how they will be shopping for back-to-school this year in addition to the 76 percent of consumers who plan to shop in-store:

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  • 54% said they will shop online
  • 33% will use buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS)
  • 22% will use curbside pickup

Additionally, Sensormatic Solutions Shopper Insights data predicts the busiest weeks of the back-to-school shopping season by region to be:

  • Midwest: Weeks 27–28 (August 1–14, 2021)
  • Northeast: Weeks 29–31 (August 15–September 4, 2021)
  • Southern: Weeks 26–27 (July 25–August 7, 2021)
  • Western: Weeks 26–28 (July 25–August 14, 2021)
Amy Shulman
Amy Shulman

“In 2020, most communities hadn’t reopened their schools for in-person learning, which impacted retailers from apparel to big box and office supplies,” said Amy Shulman, global head professional services, Sensormatic Solutions. “Trying to understand traffic trends when most schools in 2021 are expected to be open necessitates looking back to the most recent year when that occurred, which in this case is 2019. Doing so not only allows retailers to assess the ever-changing retail traffic environment, but also helps them understand expected shopper patterns, which is critical for staffing and supply-chain optimization, such as last-mile delivery.”

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