Back-to-school shoppers will spend $82.8 billion this season, and many of those dollars will go to online retailers, new studies say.

Online retailers are the most popular shopping destination for back-to-college shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey of 7,320 consumers June 29-July 9, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics.

49% of back-to-college consumers will shop online this year, up from 44% in last year’s survey. This is the top choice and next are:

  • Department stores, 40%
  • Discount stores, 35%
  • Office supply stores, 31%
  • College bookstores, 30%

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. The top choice was department stores at 57%, followed by online at 55%, discount stores at 52%, clothing stores at 51% and office supply stores at 35%. Consumers could pick more than one answer.

In total for K-12 and college students, consumers will spend both online and offline $82.8 billion this back-to-school season, which is down slightly from last year’s projection of $83.6 billion. The NRF does not provide figures on what consumers spent for the season, only a projection each year. The decrease in overall spending is a result, in part, of a decrease in the number in households with school-aged children, according to the NRF.

Consultancy Deloitte also recently released the results of its annual 2018 back-to-school survey of 1,200 consumers of school aged children, conducted from May 31-June 6, and found that consumers are more likely to shop for computers and hardware online than other categories:



Deloitte also finds that 49% of consumers plan to use their laptop in some way for back-to-school shopping:

  • 63% to visit a retailer’s site
  • 56% to get price information
  • 53% to make a purchase
  • 44% to collect discounts, coupons and sale information.

Even more consumers, 53%, plan to use their mobile device for back-to-school shopping:

  • 57% to collect discounts, coupons and sale information.
  • 56% to visit a retailer’s site
  • 53% to get price information
  • 46% to make a purchase

There are still plenty of back-to-school dollars to be had, as the majority of shoppers, at 53%, don’t start shopping for school items until three weeks to one month before school starts, according to the NRF survey.

Meanwhile, retailers are gearing up for this busy shopping season.

Walmart Inc. (No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500announced this week it is expanding its School Supplies List tool to 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. The mass merchant is also making hundreds more of its school supplies available for buy online pickup in stores. Inc. (No. 1) is offering deals for back-to-school shoppers who are also part of its Amazon Prime loyalty program on its annual sales event holiday Prime Day on July 16-17. Deals include 50% off apparel for men and women on Amazon brands, up to 30% off select Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) toys, plus deals on office supplies, electronics, mattresses and furniture.


Last year, Amazon customers purchased more pencils, pens, notebooks, glue sticks, lunchboxes and backpacks on Prime Day than any other day of the year, the web giant says.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (No. 31) is going after the teen market for the back-to-school shopping season in partnership with teen influencers Brooklyn and Baily McKnight, who have 3.5 million followers on Instagram and will be brand ambassadors.