It’s the most wonderful time of the year when pencil shavings are fresh, new clothes are carefully chosen, backpacks are refreshed, and thousands of paper clips have yet to be lost. Back-to-school! Parents everywhere are breathing sighs of relief—and opening their wallets in preparation. We ran a nationwide study to investigate how and where parents were investing in back-to-school supplies. The post below is stock-full of back-to-school shopping statistics; use it as your guidebook to getting through the shopping rush.

As some of us remember the joy (and pain) of back-to-school shopping in stuffed Target/Walmart/malls, it’s unsurprising to hear that children play an integral role in back-to-school shopping.

  • 3 in 5 families say that the school-aged children in their household are involved with most or all the back-to-school shopping.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) families say at least some of their back-to-school shopping is done with the children in their household.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (32%) say all back-to-school shopping is done with the children.
  • Only about 1 in 8 families say their children are not involved in back-to-school shopping.

Respondents could choose multiple options—and there is obviously no clear-cut answer to how parents find the best deals at this point.

Per Americans, email (25%) and television ads (20%) provide the best information about back-to-school sales. However, as channels shift focus to inundate consumers with back-to-school information, sales alerts are gathered from multiple sources, as over 10% of families reported getting their info from different sources.

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Back-to-School Shopping Statistics: Family Priorities

Though Americans seemingly love their long 3-month summer break, parents might not love it as much as their little minions. Our survey showed that parents are prioritizing back-to-school shopping, from starting early to spending extra.

Starting Early

Back-to-school shopping advertisements keep appearing earlier in the summer—but they seem to be working!

40% of families have started their back-to-school shopping by mid-July and just over 1 in 10 (11%) are early birds who say they have already finished their shopping as of mid-July. Families in the Northeastern part of the United States are less likely to have started by mid-July (31% vs. 40% nationwide), as school often starts later in this region.

Back-to-School Shopping Statistics Graph

Spending Generously

Having kids is tough—especially when they’re growing at the speed of light during those summer months. By August, some fast-as-weeds growers could need an entirely new wardrobe! Pro-tip: hand-me-downs are great.

Over 3 in 4 families spend over $100 per child on back-to-school shopping, while over 1 in 3 spend at least $250 per child. Older respondents (presumably with older children) and wealthier respondents tend to spend more per child on back-to- school purchases.

Families typically spend in the range of $100 to $249 per child.

  • 43% of families spend between $100 and $249,
  • 22% spend less than $100,
  • 34% spend $250 or more.

Back-to-School Shopping Statistics Graph

Back-to-School Shopping Marketing Statistics

Our study found that, while marketing does influence shopping, there isn’t one stand out channel in particular that is changing the landscape. Everything is fair game.

Retail websites and mobile apps have nearly caught up with brick-and-mortar stores as research tools for back-to-school purchases.

  • 47% of back-to-school shoppers say they have or plan to research products in stores
  • 45% back-to-school shoppers research products on websites,
  • 40% back-to-school shoppers research products on mobile apps.

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Email and television provide the best information about sales, but brick-and-mortar stores continue to be the dominant channel for back-to-school purchases.

Back-to-School Shopping Statistics Graph

Between 41% and 49% of respondents considered all seven channels that we tested to be extremely or very important in determining where they would shop for back-to-school purchases. Direct mail was considered most important as nearly half of all respondents considered it to be at least very important.

Superstores Dominate Back-to-School Shopping

Most back-to-school shoppers say that they will be shopping in store, but website and mobile app purchases are not too far behind. Kids, you’re in luck. You can still slip in an extra shirt or crisp notebook into the cart at Walmart without your parent noticing…

Brick-and-mortar stores remain the top purchase channel for back-to-school shopping, but many consumers are also doing some online shopping.

  • 72% of respondents say they will do all or most of their shopping in stores,
  • 74% report they will at least make a few back-to- school purchases via retail websites,
  • 64% say they will at least make a few back-to-school purchases through mobile apps.

Nearly half say they will shop most frequently at superstores like Walmart for their back-to-school items this year. Office supply stores (18%) were the second most popular choice among respondents.

Back-to-School Shopping Statistics Graph

That’s all for now, folks. Want to save these back-to-school shopping statistics for later? Download the report here.


Fluent’s Back-to-school survey was conducted online within the United States by Fluent, LLC on July 18-19, 2016 among 1,172 adults (aged 18 and up) who are at least partially responsible for the back-to-school purchases for the school aged children in their household. For more details, see report here.