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There should be much less consumer traffic in the stores aisles this back-to-school season, if the results of the NPD Group's annual Back-to-School 2008 survey of consumers' purchasing intentions are borne out in retailers across the country.
While the most vulnerable channels of distribution are apparel and footwear stores, which face increasing competition from such "nontraditional" rivals as office supply stores, electronics saw no change in consumer intentions, since they're now considered necessities for students rather than extras, according to NPD.
When it came to grocery stores, 12 percent of consumers responded that they would do their back-to-school shopping there, vs. 14 percent last year. Warehouse clubs were chosen by 12 percent, vs. 11 percent last year, as the preferred venue for school-related items.
School supplies came in first again when consumers were asked which back-to-school items they either have bought already or planned to buy this year. Year-over-year results indicated once more that consumers intend to cut back and in nearly every category, with consumers most often planning to pass up new schoolbags in favor of reusing last year's.
As for traditional back-to-school wardrobe purchases, 24 percent fewer consumers were expected to spend on footwear this year vs. last year, and apparel showed 10 percent less spending expected.
Further, when consumers were asked what motivates their back-to-school purchases, the No. 1 reason was "Value," followed by the fact that the item was "Required."
But NPD noted that intentions don't always jibe with actual behavior.
"As the back-to-school season progresses, I think we will see that while parents' early intentions are to cut back, in the end they won't cut back on their kids all that much," said chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen.
Based in Port Washington, N.Y., The NPD Group is a provider of consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries, including automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys, and wireless.