Back-to-School Shoppers Choose Retail Over E-tail [New Survey]

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By: Mary Bresnahan, Vice President with JLL and Melissa Ruther, Vice President with JLL. 

It’s that time of year again: school is back in session.

Retailers have already geared up for the school year, and back-to-school (BTS) shoppers are taking full advantage of new offers. Surprisingly, most activity is happening in-store this year.

According to a new JLL survey of more than 2,000 domestic consumers, 88% planned to head to the store for their BTS shopping. Roughly 45% had no intentions of shopping online for supplies, and another 30% didn’t plan to shop online for BTS clothing.

Even though school is officially in session, BTS shoppers aren’t finished. JLL’s survey found that most consumers (65%) start to shop within a month of the first day of school.

Tweaking your strategy for the rest of the shopping season? Read on for more survey insights.

Supercenters Winning the Race

When it comes to office supplies, supercenters are the dominant choice. In fact, an overwhelming majority (98%) indicated they would stop at a supercenter like Target or Walmart. When it comes to new clothes, however, department stores were the first choice (91%), followed closely by supercenters.

The caveat? Supercenters may be leading BTS shopping, but consumers are still weighing their options. JLL’s survey found that more than 60% plan to stop at three to five superstores “most likely to compare prices.”

JLL Retail

JLL Retail


Top 3 Purchase Behavior Motivators

So, how can you capture the remaining BTS rush of revenue? And, how can retailers evolve their strategies year-round to better serve consumers?

After analyzing responses from thousands of consumers, JLL identified three main motivators driving the consumer journey.

  1. The more affordable, the better. When it comes to school-prep, 70% said price was the most important variable. This isn’t surprising; especially because most school supplies are considered “commoditized products that are a necessity.”
  2. It’s all about quality. Ranking second, consumers ranked quality as a significant factor. Hence the popularity of today’s superstore, many of which boast the convenience of low cost and quality items.
  3. Efficiency over emotion. Unlike many shopping excursions, BTS consumers aren’t focused on the experience. They want to check items off the list as quickly as possible. Supercenters offer the perfect convenience, with various goods all in one place.

Real Views related read: Stores-within-Stores Enhance the Shopping Experience.

Beyond BTS shopping, it’s clear that consumers still enjoy in-store browsing for both efficiency reasons, as well as experiential. A recent study from PwC found that, “Nearly 40 percent of consumers make purchases inside a physical store at least once a week, compared to just 27 percent who do the same online …”

Bottom line: Discover what draws your audience to the store and maximize those advantages in your retail strategy.

In Ohio, retailers made the most of BTS shopping patterns with the state’s premier “sales tax holiday” from August 7 – 9. Shoppers had the option to save on clothing, school supplies and instructional materials.

Naturally, the tax holiday was a success. The stores were packed with shoppers hoping to take advantage of extra savings. According to The Columbus Dispatch, “Polaris Fashion Place saw a 9% increase in customer traffic over the three-day period compared with the same weekend in 2014.”

See the infographic for more statistics from JLL’s survey.


About the Authors

Mary Photo

Melissa PhotoMary Bresnahan is a Vice President with JLL working on the Retail Brokerage team from Columbus, Ohio. Mary specializes in agency leasing, tenant representation and real estate advisory for tenants and investors. Melissa Ruther is a Vice President with JLL working on the Retail Brokerage team from Cincinnati, Ohio. Melissa specializes in tenant representation, agency leasing, and real estate advisory for tenants and investors.