After more than a year of shortages and shipping delays, early back-to-school (B2S) shopping may be the norm as more shoppers are planning ahead than before the pandemic. We’re also seeing inflation largely shaping school spending habits as more and more shoppers report they plan to spend more this year than in previous years. 

According to a recent CivicScience survey, a quarter of U.S. adults will be doing back-to-school shopping this year, with roughly one-sixth shopping for their child (or dependent) attending a K-12 school.

Parents (who make up the majority of adults doing back-to-school shopping) have become more price sensitive in the last 12 months compared to the same time in 2021 (36% change). This figure is also higher than the percentage of parents who said they were more price sensitive in Q2-2022 (55%).

Back-to-school shoppers may be accustomed to supply chain issues as more than a quarter of respondents say they’ve completed more than half of their B2S shopping, which is almost equivalent to last year and nearly twice the percentage in 2019 and 2020.

Forty-one percent of school shoppers plan to spend more on B2S items this year, which is the highest percentage yet. When asked why they expect to spend more, the majority (60%) said it was due to increased prices.

Online back-to-school shopping has significantly dropped compared to 2020 and 2021 (-11 pp and -8 pp). In-store shopping is overwhelmingly the main source for both K-12 and college B2S shoppers, but college school shoppers are more inclined to leverage online shopping methods. 

With many students going to school in person this year, there is less of a need for remote technology— there’s a larger percentage of B2S shoppers planning to spend less on electronics (compared to more). Attending in person is also likely why clothing / apparel is the category school shoppers plan to spend more on compared to last year. 

The current economic climate is largely shaping back-to-school spending habits, and we could see similar trends in the upcoming holiday shopping season. Check back in weekly for new insights as CivicScience monitors the latest emerging trends and consumer sentiments.