Back-to-School Shoppers Studying Direct Channels

Good news for catalogers hoping for a hot back-to-school season. A survey conducted by customer loyalty research consultancy Brand Keys shows considerable increases in the percent of consumers who plan to use catalog and online channels for their back-to-school shopping.

According to an annual survey of 7,500 households with school-aged children, drawn from nine U.S. Census regions, 35% of consumers will buy for back-to-school online, while 15% will rely on catalog shopping. The online channel shows a 40% rise from last year, while catalog shoppers are up 15%.

Robert Passikoff, president of New York-based Brand Keys, attributes the rise in those channels to a combined increase in computer usage and higher gas prices. Though a hike in gas prices has traditionally caused the online and catalog channels to rise, Passikoff says the increase in direct shopping is also because the parents who saw the Internet five years ago as a place to retrieve and send e-mail now see it as a place to shop.

“The 8-to-17-year-olds don’t have the credit system in place to do the buying, so they window shop on the Web and bookmark the pages and sit down with their parents to show them what they want,” Passikoff says.

“The convenience kicks in for the parents as well. They figure, why schlep the kids to the mall for shoes when they already have their pair of Air Walks already picked out?” Passikoff says.

Overall, Passikoff estimates back-to-school shopping figures to rise 7% to $18 billion this year. The average amount consumers say they are going to spend for back-to-school clothes and supplies this year is $590.

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