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    High Gas Prices Won't Stop Back-to-School Spending: Accenture Study

    NEW YORK -- The majority of consumers planning back-to-school shopping trips said high gas prices will not affect how much money they spend in the back-to-school season, according to a survey released by Accenture, a global management consulting firm based here.

    NEW YORK -- The majority of consumers planning back-to-school shopping trips said high gas prices will not affect how much money they spend in the back-to-school season, according to a survey released by Accenture, a global management consulting firm based here.

    Three-quarters (76 percent) of the more than 500 U.S. consumers surveyed said the price of gas will not affect how much money they spend for back-to-school items, although it will likely affect how they spend it. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of respondents said high gas prices will cause them to shop at fewer stores and make fewer trips, and nearly one-quarter (24 percent) said higher gas prices will cause them to buy more sale items.

    The majority (88 percent) of those planning back-to-school shopping trips will be buying from mass merchants. About half (49 percent) said they would do back-to-school shopping at an office supply store, and more than one-third (37 percent) said they plan to shop in a department store. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those who said they plan to shop at a mass merchant cited reasonable prices as the main reason for doing so.

    "With consumers making fewer trips and shopping in fewer stores, it is even more important for retailers to get their inventory and assortment right," said Janet Hoffman, managing partner of Accenture's North American Retail practice. "Retailers must give customers a positive store experience from the front door through the check-out lane."

    When asked to identify their top complaints of retailers, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents cited crowded stores and more than half (58 percent) cited out-of-stock items. In terms of suggestions for retailers, half (51 percent) of respondents said they would like to see increased product selection, the same number said they want stores to ensure in-stock items, and 40 percent said they want more check-out lanes.

    "Successful retailers must be scientific about how they plan for the back-to-school shopping season, as well as all year round, or they risk losing customers to competitors," said Hoffman.

    Slightly more than half (52 percent) of back-to-school shoppers said they expect to spend more this year than they did last year, and two-thirds (67 percent) cited higher prices as the reason why. Four in 10 (40 percent) of respondents said they plan to spend about the same amount on back-to-school shopping this year as they did last year, and 8 percent said they would spend less, mainly because they said they have less discretionary income.

    Nearly all (98 percent) of the respondents said they will spend most of their back-to-school money on clothing and accessories.

    The Web-based survey of 573 U.S. consumers, comprised of both 18- to 22-year-olds and adults with school-age children, was fielded in June 2006.

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