Insight

Fresh start: Consumer pulse survey report | Back to school 2021

Consumers signal strong back to school.

Matt Kramer

Matt Kramer

National Sector Leader, Consumer & Retail, KPMG LLP

+1 614-241-4666

Scott Rankin

Scott Rankin

National Advisory Leader, Consumer & Retail, KPMG LLP

+1 617-988-1474

Julia Wilson

Julia Wilson

Managing Director, Deal Advisory, KPMG US

+1 404-222-3511

In May 2021, KPMG polled 1000 consumers across the U.S. to learn about the effects of COVID-19 on their anticipated back-to-school spending, in-person learning vs. virtual learning and anticipated purchasing trends including brick and mortar vs. online. Three hundred thirty-five (335) survey respondents said they would be making back-to-school purchases for a child. 

Back-to-school spend expected to increase 

Parents are indicating they are likely to spend more on school supplies than they did last year with a year over year (YOY) increase of 9 percent. Spend is anticipated to be driven by the larger than normal group of pre-school (32 percent YOY increase) and college students (13 percent YOY increase).

Categories that will benefit most from the return to in-person learning appear to be the more “traditional” school-related items such as footwear, nonfootwear apparel and school supplies. These items also mark the largest increases as a percentage of parents’ school supply budgets. 

 

Average back-to-school spend per child


How 2021 back-to-school dollars may be spent


Note(s): (a)   KPMG conducted a survey of over 1,000 consumers across the United States and asked the questions “How much do you plan on spending on back to school supplies per child (including apparel and uniforms)?” and “You indicated that you have college-age adults living in your household. How much do you plan on spending on back to school supplies per college-age student (including apparel and uniforms)?”  and “How do you expect to spend your money on this year vs last year?”  (b)   N=335 respondents saying they would make school supply purchases.

Source: (1)   KPMG Consumer survey, fielded May 2021

Consumers expect to pay more

The expectation for some is that items will be more expensive this back-to-school season. Among respondents planning to spend more per child, 39 percent believe things will cost more in 2021. For the parents who expect to spend less per child, 32 percent say they need fewer items.

Respondents planning to spend more on child


Respondents planning to spend less on child


Notes: (a)   KPMG conducted a survey of over 1,000 consumers across the United States and asked questions pertaining to school supply shopping, “Why do you plan to spend less per child?”, “Why do you plan to spend more per child?” (b)   N=335 respondents saying they would make school supply purchases; N=210 respondents saying they will spend more on a child; N=146 respondents saying they will spend less on a child.

Sources: (1)   KPMG Consumer survey, fielded May 2021

Online retailers continue to gain market share

Online shopping penetration for back-to-school supplies is anticipated to increase 30 percent from pre-COVID-19 levels (44 percent in 2021 vs. 34 percent in 2020). The trend for purchasing school supplies online is likely to continue, buoyed by the fact that consumers continue to increase their percentage of online shopping.

 

Online shopping penetration for school supplies


Notes: (a)   KPMG conducted a survey of over 1,000 consumers across the United States and asked the question, “How do you expect to shop in 2021 for back to school vs last year vs pre-COVID-19?”  (b)   N=335 respondents saying they would make school supply purchases.

Sources: (1)   KPMG Consumer survey, fielded May 2021

The KPMG consumer pulse survey series explores key, emerging themes around consumer behaviors, purchasing patterns and the economy. Each survey asks 1,000 U.S. consumers, representing all demographics, timely questions about upcoming purchases and economic conditions. We conduct the surveys to help our clients understand consumers, uncover the signals of permanent change and create basis for transforming their businesses to meet customers where they are.