Along with scaling back purchases in general, survey data reveals that many savvy consumers are harnessing the power of the Internet this year to take advantage of the latest and greatest back-to-school shopping deals. According to PriceGrabber survey data, an overwhelming 69 percent of consumers plan to shop online and use comparison shopping sites as a money-saving technique, compared to only 23 percent who said that in 2010. Forty-one percent of shoppers indicated that they will visit retailer Websites to print out coupons, versus 33 percent last year.
"The modest but meaningful decrease in back-to-school shopping budgets this year demonstrates the lasting impact the recession is having on consumers' mindsets," stated Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. "As consumers adjust to the new economic reality, they become smarter about their purchases over time. Given the Internet's unrivaled ability to save shoppers time and money, it comes as no surprise to us that more consumers are flocking to online shopping and comparison shopping sites in 2011 to keep their budgets low and find the best discounts."
Classic school supplies and clothing top consumers' shopping lists
Amidst the sea of high-tech gadgets available, consumers are once again putting basic school supplies and clothing at the top of their back-to-school shopping lists — and in even greater numbers than in 2010. PriceGrabber's survey found that 79 percent of consumers indicated that they will shop for general school supplies such as notebooks, binders and pencils, compared to 76 percent last year. Seventy-five percent of consumers plan to send their kids to school in the latest fashions by purchasing new clothing, versus 70 percent in 2010. The list of popular items for 2011 is rounded out by 47 percent of consumers indicating they will purchase a backpack or a tote bag, followed by 44 percent of shoppers who say they will purchase books.
"Clothing retailers will always benefit from the back-to-school shopping season, and we suspect that the increase in purchases in this category can be attributed to the recent, wide availability of affordable, designer-inspired clothes," commented Jones. "For parents looking to keep their kids on-trend, they may find it easier to stay within their budget by comparing prices online for a discounted pair of designer jeans and extending the life of the expensive electronics they already own."
Laptops and cell phones are down in 2011 tech category, while tablets find a new following
This year, consumers are expected to be budget-conscious when shopping for electronics, but they will not shy away from the latest technological advancements. According to PriceGrabber's survey data, 18 percent of consumers will purchase a new laptop for their student, compared to 24 percent in 2010. Eleven percent will purchase a new cell phone or smartphone, versus 13 percent last year. This drop in conventional electronics comes alongside the emerging popularity of tablet computers. PriceGrabber's survey data found that 10 percent of consumers plan to purchase an electronic tablet this year.
"The tablet computer has come a long way since the debut of the iPad just over a year ago," added Jones. "Further analysis of the data supports the idea that tablet computers are providing back-to-school shoppers an alternative to more expensive laptops; their convenient portability is likely also allowing consumers to forgo purchasing a new cell phone or upgrading to a smartphone."