Back-To-School Shoppers Are Returning To Brick-And-Mortar Stores In 2021

Consumers shopping for back-to-school items have returned to their pre-pandemic habits. With the wide availability of vaccines and an uptick in in-person activities, a new Morning Consult/Adweek survey found that 47 percent of those polled said they intend to shop mostly in stores for supplies, compared to 17 who said they plan to shop primarily online. Both results are in line with the shares who said they shopped in person (48 percent) and online (18 percent) in 2019.

In 2020, 33 percent of parents of and students did their back-to-school shopping in person, and 29 percent primarily shopped online.

The survey found that Gen X parents are generally the most in favor of the brick-and-mortar experience. The Morning Consult/Adweek data shows that 61 percent of Gen X parents shopped in person in 2019, and 53 percent intend to do so in 2021. Curiously, while the largest proportion of Gen X parents plan on shopping in-person in 2021, the data shows that Gen Z and Millennial parents and students will be physically going to shops more in 2021 than they did prior to the pandemic. At 43 percent in 2021, Gen Z is two points ahead of 2019, while Millennials, at 45 percent in 2021, are three points ahead.

Income levels also appear to make a difference in consumers’ back-to-school plans. Shoppers making more than $100,000 turned to online in a big way in 2020, up 19 points to 41 percent—compared to 28 percent in 2020 among those making between $50,000 and $100,000 and 24 percent among those making below $50,000. Higher income shoppers are returning to in-person shopping in 2021, however, with 45 percent saying they will mostly buy in-person for the upcoming school year, and 19 percent planning to shop online—a 22-point decline from last year and below even 2019’s figure. Lower income segments are also returning to in-person in 2021 but aren’t shedding online shopping to such a large degree.

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