Back to School Shopping Survey Results Show More Parents Shop Online

This post was most recently updated on February 13th, 2020

Time for a little back to school news. A back to school survey* from Gift Card Granny looked at back to school shopping habits for 2018. They had a sample size of 2,637 respondents and most are parents who are shopping for their kids. The rest are buying for themselves, someone else in their family, charity or teachers.

We got our school supply list for first grade last week. To get the supplies I did a combination of online shopping (for dry erase markers I couldn’t find anywhere locally) and in-store shopping. I’m not sure why we need dry erase markers actually but they’re coming in the mail because I can’t find them anywhere. And ziplock bags.

Note that we may earn a commission when you shop through our links.

For us, the hardest thing we have to buy for school is shoes!! My daughter wears them out so fast and is so picky about the fit. We ended up buying a pair of emoji Sketchers (that I think are hideous but she loves) and 2 pair at Target. I spent about $30 on them. The price was so good that I bought them without trying them on first. We’ve had good luck with Target shoes (some of her favorites). They hold up better than many much more expensive shoes we’ve purchased!

back to school shoes
Back to School means shoe shopping

DEAL ALERT: When writing this post, I used a coupon for Target for 30% off kids shoes. Prices start at just $4.09. Use code SHOES30 at checkout. Offer valid in-store or online through Aug 18. 

Plus, get free shipping and an additional 5% off when you pay (online too) with your Target REDcard. The best thing is the REDcard takes 5% off anything you buy and isn’t a credit card, it comes out of your checking account so it’s more like using a check and doesn’t affect your credit score. Or, get free shipping with a purchase of $35 or more.

In a much bigger survey from the National Retail Federation (they had 7,320 respondents) over half of the respondents say they’re shopping online this year: “For kindergarten through eighth-grade household shoppers, 55% of consumers will shop online for back-to-school items this year, up nearly 10 percentage points from 45.5% in last year’s survey.”

school bus driving off

Where are Parents Shopping?

This is interesting because only one is online only – Amazon. Funny I rarely shop Old Navy or Kohl’s online. For school supplies I would shop sooner and get in on Amazon Prime Day deals are in July.

Walmart is smart because they have a School Supplies List tool on the Walmart app. With the tool, parents can search and shop for their child’s classroom supply list, and then see where those items are on the shelves in Walmart.

You can also buy school supplies online and pickup in stores. I’ve done this a few times and I like that you don’t have to go through checkout because you already paid for it. You just pick it up at the designated spot in the store and go on your way. I only wish they’d combine grocery pickup with picking up online orders so you can get everything brought to the car and never even have to go inside!

What are they Buying?

    • Clothes or shoes (82%)
    • Folders, binders or notebooks (77%)
    • Pens and pencils (74%)

Notably missing from these categories: phones and computers (see below for more info).

Are parents shopping online or in the store? It’s both. The majority (64%) of survey respondents say they shop both in-store and online; 9% primarily shop online and 26% largely shop in-store.

When do we Start Back to School Shopping?

We tend to wait until the month school starts (which is August for most of us) to start shopping.

  • August (47%) is the most-likely month for back to school shopping
  • July (39%)
  • June (11%).

Buying Kids a Phone?

I’m curious about cell phones. Not one of the surveys I saw talk about if parents are buying their kids phones this year. I didn’t buy one but I did get a GizmoPal 2 from Verizon. We’re giving it to her for her birthday which is in September. She’s not old enough to keep track of or need a regular phone yet. I hope to put that off until middle school or until she can pay for it herself and use the GizmoPal to communicate in the meantime. It’s a simple watch in fun colors that does calling and text only. I’ll add a picture when she opens it and do a full review.

We got this deal on the GizmoPal:

Deal Alert (Verizon): GizmoPal 2 just $29.99, plus free shipping!

What about a Computer or Tablet?

I’m not buying my kid a computer or tablet (she already has an iPad) but I’m sure a laptop is in her future. What age do kids typically need one at school? Bestselling laptops on Amazon. These are affordable too, the lowest cost laptop is the Chromebook 3 at just $139.

Acer Aspire E 15, 15.6Acer Aspire E 15, 15.6ASUS VivoBook F510UA FHD Laptop, Intel Core i5-8250U, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, USB-C, NanoEdge Display, Fingerprint, Windows 10, Star Gray (F510UA-AH51)ASUS VivoBook F510UA FHD Laptop, Intel Core i5-8250U, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, USB-CSamsung Electronics XE500C13-S03US Chromebook 3 2GB RAM 16GB SSD Laptop, 11.6Samsung Electronics XE500C13-S03US Chromebook 3 2GB RAM 16GB SSD Laptop, 11.6Lenovo 15.6 Inch 768P Resolution, AMD Radeon A12-9720P Process Laptop 2.7GHz, 8GB DDR4 RAM Memory, 1TB Hard Disk Drive, DVD Drive, Built in Webcam, AC WiFi, Bluetooth, Windows 10 HomeLenovo 15.6 Inch 768P Resolution, AMD Radeon A12-9720P Process Laptop 2.7GHz, 8GB DDR4 RAM Memory, 1TB Hard Disk Drive, DVD Drive, Built in Webcam

An Informal Back to School Survey for You

Now I’m curious about what you. Have you finished your back to school shopping? Where are your go to places to shop – is it online, in store or both? Please comment and let me know!

*Read the full survey here.


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