Season-to-Date Back-to-School Categories Up 19% vs. YA; Still Lag Pre-Pandemic Levels

CHICAGO, Aug. 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Numerator, a data and tech company serving the market research space, has launched a Back-to-School Tracker to monitor omnichannel buying behavior, advertising, and promotional activity for school supplies categories. The tracker reports online and in-store purchasing metrics across key back-to-school channels (Online, Mass, Club, Drug, Office, Food), as well as promotions and advertising versus prior years. The tracker will be updated weekly. Numerator has also published survey findings from a survey of 2000+ households to understand parent sentiment, shopping plans, and expectations for the 2021/2022 school year.

Key purchase data findings include:

  • Season-to-date, sales of school supplies are up 19% compared to the 2020 back-to-school season, but have not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, down 23% compared to 2019.
  • Households participating in back-to-school buying were almost back on track with pre-pandemic levels: As of mid-July 2021, 1 in 5 U.S. households (21%) were making back-to-school purchases, up 0.7 points from a year ago, and down 1.8 points vs 2019.
  • Back-to-school baskets are larger this year, with an average basket size of $68.56, a growth of +$1.46 vs 2020 and +$7.49 vs 2019.
  • As of mid-July, back-to-school categories leading in sales versus 2020 include: Notebooks & Loose Leaf Paper (+32% vs 2020), Coloring Supplies (+28%), Writing & Correction Supplies (+23%) and Folders & Binders (+8%).

Back-to-school survey findings include:

  • More parents are engaged in back-to-school shopping this year: More than 9 in 10 parents (94%) plan to purchase school supplies this year – up 15 points from the 79% who planned to do so in 2020.
  • August is prime time for back-to-school shopping: About 2 in 5 parents (38%) plan to do their school shopping in August. Of those parents, nearly 1 in 3 (29%) plan to shop in the first half of the month, and 9% plan to shop in the second half.
  • Parents anticipate back-to-school means “in person” schooling: Nearly 2 in 3 households (64%) with K-8 children say their kids will be attending school exclusively in-person this year, up from 18% at this time last year.
    • Only 5% say their kids will be exclusively online this year, vs more than a quarter (27%) last year.
  • Parents of children going “into” schools are going “into” stores to buy: Nearly three-quarters (71%) of parents with children attending school in-person plan to buy their supplies in-store, compared to 41% of parents with children attending school online.
    • Conversely, more than half (51%) of parents with children attending school online plan to order school supplies online for delivery or pickup, compared to less than a quarter (23%) of parents with children attending school in-person.
  • Parents with children attending school primarily online are less likely to purchase all back-to-school categories, with the exceptions of Electronics and Furniture.

Back-to-school advertising and promotions findings include:

  • While back-to-school ad spend is up 9% in 2021 vs 2020, it has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels: Ad spend is down significantly (-39%) compared to the 2019 back-to-school season.
  • Kohl’s currently has the highest back-to-school ad spend, followed by JCPenny, Walmart, Macy’s and Target.
  • Total promoted products are up compared to the 2020 back-to-school season for categories such as Apparel (+52% vs 2020), Electronics (+13%), and traditional School Supplies (+2%).
  • Staples is the top retailer when it comes to number of back-to-school promotions, holding onto the number one spot in both 2020 and 2021 season-to-date. Other retailers rounding out the top five in 2021 are Macy’s, Target, Family Dollar, and Best Buy.

The Numerator Back-to-School Tracker is updated weekly with season-to-date omnichannel purchase data, advertising data, and promotions data. Categories covered: Notebooks & Loose Leaf Paper; Binders & Folders; Writing & Correction Supplies; Coloring Supplies; Clips, Pens & Rubber Bands; Glue; Scissors; Calculators, and Book Covers. Channels covered: Online, Mass, Club, Drug, Office & Food. The Numerator Back-to-School survey was fielded in June 2021 to 2,070 parents with children in grades K-8.

About Numerator
Numerator is a data and tech company bringing speed and scale to market research. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Numerator has more than 2,400 employees worldwide. The company blends proprietary data with advanced technology to create unique insights for the market research industry that has been slow to change. The majority of Fortune 100 companies are Numerator clients.

View this release on PR Newswire.


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