Back-to-School Shopping Goes In-Store as Anxiety Eases


About three-quarters of U.S. shoppers plan to do back-to-school shopping in stores this year, the latest sign that consumer behavior is normalizing after the long pandemic isolation.

While the bulk of consumers aren’t shying away from stores, more than half said they’ll do at least some of their shopping online, according to a survey released Thursday from Sensormatic Solutions, a unit of Johnson Controls International Plc. The report polled 1,000 U.S. shoppers in mid-June, so the findings don’t fully capture the impact of the latest Covid-19 surge caused by the delta variant.

After more than a year of pandemic-related challenges, retailers are hopeful heading into the critical shopping season as many parents prepare to send their kids to in-person classes. The National Retail Federation’s annual survey, released this week, forecasts a record $37.1 billion in U.S. back-to-school shopping, up from $33.9 billion last year.

Vaccination rates have helped ease consumer anxieties: 73% of respondents said they were neutral or unconcerned about in-store shopping, compared with just 35% in late 2020.

Shopper hesitancy isn’t the only hurdle during the back-to-school season. Port delays and labor shortages are threatening to slow the arrival of products to stores. Clothing, a category that suffered during pandemic lockdowns last year, was the product that consumers expect to spend the most on this year, followed by shoes and school supplies.

Asking consumers how they plan to shop this year, the study found:

  • 76% said they will shop in-store
  • 54% plan to shop online
  • 33% expect to use buy online, pickup in-store
  • 22% will use curbside pickup

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