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Parents, the Pandemic and Preparing for Back-to-School

Hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes and masks top the 2020-2021 school season shopping lists.

Parents, grandparents and teachers are already preparing for fall and an unknown back-to-school season. More than half of those already planning for the 2020-2021 school year (63 percent) are thinking differently about upcoming back-to-school spending due to COVID-19, planning to put less of their dollars toward frivolous purchases and more toward essential items and remote learning tools. 

Shopkick surveyed more than 6,700 American consumers planning to make school-related purchases this fall to gain insights into back-to-school shopping plans. The survey was conducted between May 15-May 26, 2020. 

Key findings include: 

Safety at School: With safety top of mind across the board, 83 percent of respondents plan to make purchases to protect their children and students returning to school, including hand sanitizer (97 percent), cleaning wipes (89 percent), paper products like tissues and paper towels (73 percent), masks (71 percent), gloves (44 percent) and disposable cutlery for lunchtime (44 percent).

Stock-Up Season: More than 3 out of 4 shoppers (77 percent) plan to stock up on essential items (masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper), citing general hygiene and safety practices (46 percent), fear of another COVID-19 outbreak (40 percent), and fear of essential items selling out at the store (10 percent) as reasons for doing so.

Big Box for BTS: Despite social distancing measures, 66 percent of respondents plan to do their back-to-school shopping in-store. Nearly all in-store shoppers (95 percent) will shop at big box retailers like Target and Walmart, followed by office supply stores (37 percent), club stores (25 percent), drug stores (24 percent), and grocery stores (20 percent). One area where parents and grandparents differ from teachers is in the number of shopping trips they plan to make. Most parents and grandparents (33 percent) plan to make only two trips, while most teachers (29 percent) plan to make five or more trips.

Planning for Prolonged Distance Learning: With uncertainty around returning to full-time school schedules this fall, 38 percent of respondents plan to dedicate more of this year’s budget toward remote learning tools. Of those, parents of college students (46 percent) and pre-school-aged children (42 percent) are most likely to do so.

Early Birds and Budgeters: The majority plan to get a head start on shopping, with 53 percent planning to shop one month prior to the first day of school, 22 percent planning for two months prior, 17 percent planning for one week prior. With tighter budgets due to the economic downturn, 80 percent say getting the best price is their top priority. Forty percent of respondents say they’ll spend less than $75 per child, followed by 34 percent who say they’ll spend between $76-$150.

At-Home Health: With kids expected to return to school environments for the first time in months, 87 percent of respondents are already planning additional safety precautions for the home. When kids get home from school, parents and grandparents plan to implement frequent sanitizing (91 percent), mandatory bathing (69 percent), temperature checks (48 percent) and social distancing at the dinner table or refraining from physical touch (35 percent).

“While it’s still uncertain what school will look like this fall, we do know that consumers are preparing for the season in different ways than ever before. A heightened focus on safety and savings will guide their purchasing behavior,” said Dave Fisch, general manager of Shopkick. “With essential items making their way onto most back-to-school lists, retailers should plan to keep items like masks and hand sanitizer just as stocked and competitively-priced as pens and pencils.”

To learn more about how Shopkick can help you reach consumers and drive sales this back-to-school season, get in touch.