In a survey, teachers report spending an average of $652 on classroom supplies, instructional materials and professional development in 2018, up 39% from last year.

It’s well known that American teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pockets for school supplies. In 2018, teachers report spending a lot more than last year. And their favorite place to shop for those supplies is Amazon.com Inc.

A recent survey of 538 K-12 teachers conducted by SheerID and Agile Education Marketing finds that teachers report spending an average of $652 on classroom supplies, instructional materials and professional development in 2018. That’s a 39% increase from last year and the highest amount since the survey started in 2013. In fact, 2018 was the first year that the survey didn’t show a decline in average spending by teachers.

“The opportunity [for retailers] here is greater than it has been in the past,” says Bill Schneider, vice president of product marketing for SheerID. The biggest beneficiaries, he says, will be retailers that offer special teacher-only discounts and are savvy about using a multichannel strategy to reach out to teachers.


In 2018, teachers shopped most often at, Amazon (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000), followed by Michaels, Barnes & Noble Booksellers Inc, (No. 74) Staples Inc. (No. 5) and Office Depot Inc. (No. 14), in that order, the survey found. All of those retailers have special rewards and/or discount programs exclusively for teachers.

Given their spending outlays, it’s no surprise that teachers report seeking special discounts. 88% of teachers say they actively seek out retailers that provide teacher discounts—especially those offered online. The report found that teachers are more likely to purchase from a retailer that offers an online teacher discount for classroom supplies (92%) and personal items (82%), as opposed to one that doesn’t offer those discounts online.

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The type of offer most favored by teachers is free shipping (preferred by 90% of educators), followed by a large discount on a single product (87%). In addition, 80% of teachers said “everyday” discounts for teachers—as opposed to back-to-school sales alone—are important to them.

Asked where they most often hear about teacher discounts, 80% of respondents cited other teachers, followed by social media (58%), and friends and family (52%). That, Schneider says, indicates teachers have a lot of influence among their peers. Another reason for retailers to court teachers as customers, he says, is the impact they have on technology purchases by school systems. According to the survey, 70% of teachers either choose technology for the school or have an influence in decision making for technology purchases.

Among consumers as a whole, the National Retail Federation’s annual survey of 7,320 consumers June 29-July 9 found that 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%) and college bookstores (30%).

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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, which was conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics.

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