Retail

Back-to-College Shopping Still an In-Store Experience for Most

Image Credit: Image by Vincent_Zhang from Pixabay

August is quickly turning to September, and thus the annual ritual of parents overstuffing their kids’ college dorm rooms with everything from mini fridges to clean underwear has begun once again.

CivicScience asked both college students and their parents about where they’d shop for their back-to-school goods this year. The mid-August survey found that while some opt to buy their comforters and throw rugs from online retailers, most prefer the traditional shopping experience in this particular case. That goes for both students and parents:

Parents who prefer a traditional back-to-college shopping experience (i.e., a Walmart or Target trip) rather than browsing on Amazon tend to have more conservative buying habits in general.

Gender Plays a Role for Both Students & Parents

When it comes to the students themselves, young men were much more likely to want to shop on Amazon. Young women were more likely to visit brick-and-mortar stores.

It seems that the same gender tendencies hold true with the students’ parents, too, though to a lesser extent.

Taking another look at the chart above, it seems that dads were OK with big box stores, but most don’t want anything to do with home goods stores (Bed, Bath & Beyond / Marshall’s / TJ Maxx / HomeGoods). Across generations, then, it appears men are more inclined to shop online for dorm necessities, while women prefer the in-store experience. 

Meanwhile, income plays a role in where parents decide to shop:

Parents’ inclination to do back-to-college shopping on Amazon rose alongside household income. The wealthiest respondents in our survey ($150K / year and up) were 40% more likely to lean on the online retailer than parents from the next-highest income bracket. The two middle income groups were more likely to rely on Walmart and Target, while the lowest income group had “Other” stores in mind. 

Amazon shoppers were the group most likely to have stock and / or bond portfolios as well.

Going By the Book

As far as textbooks go, it seems college students tend to rent about twice as often as they buy, perhaps in hopes of saving money.

Surprisingly, though, college bookstores remain the most popular option for textbooks, although they’re notoriously expensive.

What’s even more surprising is that students who said their household income was less than $50K per year were 22% more likely to use the bookstore and 39% less likely to order from Amazon.

Tablets in Demand Among College-Age Women

Laptops are college students’ devices of choice, though a substantial number say they want tablets. Their parents generally agree with them.

Young women were substantially more likely to want tablets than young men.

In general, it seems that brick-and-mortar stores still have a strong grip on the back-to-college shopping market, though Amazon has made inroads among young men and their fathers. It seems as though moms are particularly interested in specialty stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, HomeGoods, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx, while young women lean toward the traditional big box store experience.

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