New Shopper Insights from Acosta Reveal Spending Growth for 2017 School Year

Survey Shows Back-to-school Shopping Dads Intend to Spend the Most of Any Demographic

Insights from Acosta's 2017 back-to-school shopper study. (Graphic: Business Wire)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--()--While it’s no holiday season, the end of summer is one of the most popular times of the year for shopping as students return to school. From new clothes and backpacks to school supplies and snacks for lunchboxes, parents spend a great deal on getting their children prepared — and 42 percent of those back-to-school shoppers planned on spending more for the 2017 school year than 2016, according to new research and insights from Acosta, a leading sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail merchandising industry.

“Unlike the holidays, the back-to-school shopping season is a little more fluid as schools across the U.S. are back in session at various times from early August until mid-September, with the advertising push from retailers beginning as early as July,” said Colin Stewart, Senior Vice President at Acosta. “Acosta’s research showed that 52 percent of shoppers made their first back-to-school purchase before August 1, and although schools are already back in session at this point, retailers will still see sales continue as students are given classroom supply lists and get a better sense of what they will need for their particular areas of study.”

Acosta’s 2017 back-to-school survey also found:

Planned spending for back-to-school shopping sees growth

As shoppers planned to spend more on back-to-school items this year, Acosta’s survey analyzed which demographics of consumers planned on being the top spenders, and just how much they anticipated spending.

  • Forty-two percent of back-to-school shoppers indicated they planned to spend more this year on back-to-school purchases for the children in their household.
  • On average, back-to-school shoppers expect to spend $912 this year.
  • The back-to-school shopper demographics that are the biggest spenders include Dads (male shoppers average $1,489); Gen Z/Millennial shoppers ages 18-36 (average $1,210); and shoppers with kids ages 7-12 (average $1,202).

From consumables to durables, back-to-school shoppers are filling their carts

While school clothing and writing/paper supplies are top of the list for back-to-school purchases because they are useful for all grade levels from pre-K to college, in reality, back-to-school shopping spans a wide variety of categories.

  • Back-to-school budgets are being spent across categories including school clothing (32 percent); school supplies and backpacks (26 percent); lunch/snack food (18 percent); and computer electronics (16 percent).
  • With 54 percent of shoppers planning to pack their children school lunches each week during the school year, shoppers indicated they are buying easy-to-pack items including individually portioned foods (57 percent) and single-serving beverages (52 percent), along with plans to purchase lunchboxes or reusable lunch/snack totes (46 percent).
  • Eighty percent of shoppers purchased or plan to purchase writing/paper supplies, with category purchases planned across many retail outlets including mass merchants (71 percent), office supply stores (30 percent), dollar stores (23 percent) and grocery stores/supermarkets (22 percent).

Shoppers are influenced by a number of in-store and online factors

With so many items to buy across multiple categories, back-to-school shoppers turn to a number of places to help them make purchasing decisions.

  • Shoppers indicated being influenced in-store when making back-to-school purchasing decisions, including by items on sale at the shelf (58 percent), aisle displays (45 percent), and in-store flyers/ads (42 percent).
  • Online tactics from retailers/stores, such as emails (41 percent), ads (39 percent), and social media posts (28 percent), were also influential to back-to-school shoppers.
  • Forty-seven percent of shoppers were influenced by coupons for back-to-school items.
  • Shoppers also researched their back-to-school purchases online, with the most popular categories researched including computer electronics (46 percent); skincare or makeup items (38 percent); and school clothing (36 percent) — but fewer of these shoppers (21 percent, 20 percent and 14 percent, respectively) reported purchasing these items online instead of in a retail store.

“From mass merchants to department stores and grocery stores, shoppers have a choice of many channels when it comes to buying back-to-school items,” Stewart added. “Back-to-school shoppers told us retailers should aim to have competitive pricing and a good selection of items to draw them in year after year. The good news is, shoppers’ purchases can be influenced by both in-store and online tactics, as well as more traditional advertising in broadcast and print media, so it’s important to execute integrated marketing efforts."

Acosta’s 2017 back-to-school research was completed via an online survey of the company’s custom shopper community panel. To access other Acosta research and insight reports, as well as actionable solutions for brands and retailers, visit

About Acosta

Acosta is the sales and marketing powerhouse behind most of the trusted brands seen in stores every day. The company provides a range of outsourced sales, marketing and retail merchandising services throughout the U.S. and Canada. For 90 years, Acosta has led the industry in helping consumer packaged goods companies move products off shelves and into shoppers’ baskets. For more information, please visit


Allie Artur, 610-455-2760

Release Summary

New shopper insights from Acosta reveal spending growth for 2017 school year.


Allie Artur, 610-455-2760