Insights below are highlights from the Back to School report, a three-part series focusing on back-to-school shopping habits and the socioeconomic forces impacting families, available in full to CivicScience clients. Not a client? Start here to access the report or download a free preview.  

Though back-to-school shopping may seem like a far off concept right now, inflation and lingering impacts of the pandemic have driven a trend of earlier shopping for the school year ahead. 

Recent data from CivicScience suggest that a considerable number of consumers have started crossing items off their back-to-school shopping lists. Thirty-nine percent of those planning to do back-to-school shopping have already begun for the upcoming school year – a five percentage-point increase since May 2022. Moreover, 1-in-7 are well ahead of the curve, reporting they have already finished all their back-to-school shopping for next year.

While in-store shopping continues to be the dominant form of back-to-school shopping, the percentage opting to shop in-store has fallen slightly from this time last year (58% in May 2022 to 56% May 2023). Online methods of shopping have increased since last May.

Inflation remains of concern for back-to-school shoppers.

Inflation may be trending downward, but prices remain elevated, and recent data reveal concerns about inflation are still high among consumers. Ninety-two percent of U.S. adults say they’re at least ‘somewhat concerned’ about inflation right now. That said, inflation concern is generally lower among adults with school-aged children – two percentage points lower than the Gen Pop. 

A look at planned back-to-school shopping reveals nearly one-quarter (22%) of U.S. adults report they’ll be spending ‘less’ on back-to-school shopping compared to last year while  Two-in-five say they plan to spend ‘more.’ Among shoppers ‘very concerned’ about inflation, the percentage of those spending ‘less’ jumps up to 26%. 

Learning loss is a potential driver of some back-to-school shopping plans.

One of the pandemic’s most noteworthy effects is its impact on learning after years of prolonged school shutdowns due to COVID-19. A staggering 54% of adults with school-aged children say a student in their household is struggling in at least one subject.

This learning loss looks to shape consumer back-to-school shopping plans in the months ahead. Among the population of adults living with school-aged children, 19% say they plan to purchase a laptop for their child in the next six months. That percentage jumps to 25% among families living with children struggling with grades in at least one subject area. Other technology and devices that have the potential to support student learning like tablets are also higher among households with children struggling with learning loss. 

It’s clear lingering effects of the pandemic and inflation continue to impact schooling in a variety of ways, from how students learn to upcoming shopping plans. CivicScience clients receive a full version of this back-to-school report with more consumer insights and trends. Get in touch to learn more.