The International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC) has released the findings of its Back-to-School 2023 Consumer Survey.

The survey was conducted July 14 – 16 2023, with a demographically representative US sample of 1,008 respondents to obtain consumer behaviour data for the period.

The back-to-school retail period typically starts and ends in August before schools reopen in September for the US and Europe. Consumers typically stock up on school-related items such as stationery, clothing, electronics, and sporting equipment.

US retailers such as Walmart and Target have prepared for increased demand with replenished stock.

Back-to-school spending increase

Shoppers will spend an average of $969 during this year’s back-to-school shopping season, at an increase from $911 in 2022, according to ICSC.

Nearly half (48%) of adults in the US will buy back-to-school items this year and seventy-five percent of shoppers plan to increase their spending on back-to-school items compared to 2022.

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By GlobalData

Of those who plan to increase their spending, 60% say they are doing so as a result of higher prices and inflation, compared to only 43% who said the same in 2022, showing the effects of macroeconomic conditions.

Back-to-school deals

Seven in 10 consumers said they will shop at discount stores (an increase of five percentage points from last year), making it the most popular type of retailer for back-to-school shopping.

Nearly half (45%) of shoppers are looking to purchase items when they’re on sale due to higher prices and inflation, while 38% plan to buy from brands that are generally cheaper.

An overwhelming majority (91%) say their back-to-school purchases are influenced by promotions, while nine in 10 say inflation and rising prices will impact their purchases, consistent with the ICSC’s 2022 results.

Nearly three-fourths (72%) of respondents are sticking to a strict budget this year.

The majority of back-to-school shoppers plan to make their purchases later in the season, with 44% of spending expected to happen in August.

Electronics will account for the largest portion of expected spending for consumers ($261), though school supplies saw the biggest increase from recent years ($168, up from $137 in 2022). Other top spending categories include apparel ($233), furniture ($205), and sporting goods ($102).