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Inflation Is A Top Concern For Parents This Back-To-School Season

Inflation is a major concern this back-to-school season, and retailers are focused on finding a clear message that promotes value without sacrificing sales. Signals are mixed on how successful retailers will be.

The beginning of 2022 had a more positive outlook for the back-to-school season, but it changed as the year progressed because of growing fears of a recession in the face of higher prices in almost every classification – from food to clothing, from transportation to school books. School-related spending is forecast to hit $34.4 Billion, which is +24% higher than 2019 (the last year that was pre-pandemic), according to Deloitte’s 2022 back-to-school survey.

Inflation has impacted every aspect of back-to-school shopping this year and most retailers’ strategies seem to reflect the influence of inflation on consumers’ ability to invest in school supplies and apparel.

Here are some facts:

1. Parents will pay $661 for each K-12 student this season, up +8% from a total of $612 spent last year.

2. 33% of consumers report their household income has worsened since last year, according to Deloitte’s report.

3. 50% of parents plan to splurge. That is down from 93% last year, according to a NerdWallet study.

4. 77% of the consumers will switch brands if prices are too high or if the item is out of stock, according to Deloitte.

5. Consumers are on the hunt for good deals and shopping earlier; 53% of K-12 spending is expected to have already occurred (shopping completed by the end of July).

6. Electronics prices have actually come down. Forrester’s Sucharita Kodali says,”It is one of the few categories where there is deflation.”

7. Inflation has impacted almost every aspect of back-to-school shopping, according to Dave Bruno, Director of Retail Market Insights for Aptos.

On July 4, 2022 I published a list of 18 states that have school tax holidays. Some states like Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts still have them in effect while most other states have concluded their tax-free days. These programs are considered important selling periods and viewed as helping parents outfit their children.

Some of the key retailers who have back-to-school campaigns include Walmart
, Target
, Amazon
, Staples, and L.L.Bean.

By way of comparison, I revisited a New York Times
article published just the other day (August 10, 2022) that tracked pricing increases in the food and restaurant industry. The article reflected the higher expenses a restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina has faced to meet their food ingredients, staffing, and serveware needs. Here, too, we see that prices have increased dramatically since pre-pandemic days, anywhere from ‘just’ +14% to almost +160%. For instance, bulk quantities for food staples like canola cooking oil increased by +159% while all-purpose flour increased by +61%. Similarly, kitchen staff salaries (for line cooks and sous-chefs) rose by +25-36%. Even utensils and glassware (wine and water glasses) saw prices jump by anywhere from +37% to +63%.

POSTSCRIPT: I use this restaurant in North Carolina as just one example of higher prices that are hitting the average consumer everywhere. For families with children, back-to-school is an important period in a family’s life, and this year it is a costly one.