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Back-to-school shoppers are focusing on needs over wants, Signifyd data show

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Going back to school — with the operative word here “going,” as in into the building — fueled late summer shopping in August. Consumers seemed to consider clothes, shoes, and off-campus apartment and dorm furnishings as necessities despite having to navigate through a maze of inflated prices.

Since walking around barefoot in pajamas isn’t an option in the classroom, or in an office for workers required to return, sales of apparel rose 34% in August from last year, with shoe sales alone up 19% year over year, Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data shows. Sales of fast-fashion clothes, with a value under $250, were up 40% from last month and 28% year over year, according to Signifyd.  

Back-to-School shopping is the second largest retail spending season behind holiday purchases, according to a 2022 survey by Deloitte, which discovered parents plan to spend $661 on each child, an 8% annual increase from $612 in 2021 and up considerably from pre-pandemic spending of $519 per child in 2019.  

2022 Back-to-school spending to hit $864 per child

The National Retail Federation estimated spending per child to be higher, at $864 per child and $1,199 per college student.

“Necessities are the most protected segment of retail, and getting kids to school is essential for families. ”

Mark Mathews, VP of R&D and Industry Analysis, NRF

“Necessities are the most protected segment of retail, and getting kids to school is essential for families, ” says Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis for the NRF. “Consumers are cutting back on spending in other areas, working additional hours and taking other measures to cover costs for back-to-class shopping.”   

All this helped lead ecommerce to a solid month in August, with sales up 13% and cart sizes expanding by 20%, year over year, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data.  

 

View the entire National Retail Federation 2022 Back-to-School Trends webinar featuring Mark Mathews, NRF vice president of research and industry analysis and Katherine Cullen, NRF senior director, industry and consumer insights.

Mathews and Cullen will explore trends including analyzing in what categories are families spending this back-to-school season and how inflation is affecting those spending decisions.

While higher sales are generally good news, there is little doubt that inflation played a role in higher spending and larger cart sizes. Prices for back-to-school items averaged 15% higher than a year ago, USA Today reported, citing analytics firm DataWeave. Lunch box prices increased 14% to more than $25 and backpacks were up nearly 12% to an average of $70. 

Electronics sales were mostly flat during back-to-school season

Interestingly, sales of electronics, which drove back-to-school sales in the past couple of years because of COVID, were quite flat in August, Signifyd data shows. Overall, electronics sales grew 3% from a year ago, but sales of personal electronics, such as laptops, were actually down 5%, in August from last year. Instead, sales in the vertical centered on tech accessories.

 “From a digital perspective, people have already spent big budgets on laptops, tablets, (and) extra monitors,” says Alex Vaz, a senior manager in the Cyber practice at Deloitte.   

Apparently, last year’s laptop is good enough. 

What you need to know
  • Fraudsters also lurked in the midst of the August back-to-school shopping frenzy. Signifyd data shows that across all verticals in August bot attacks were up 329%, and fraud pressure on aged accounts, an indication of account takeover attempts, were up 521% from a year ago. 
  • Sporting good sales had a solid month in August and rose 13% from a year ago, Signifyd data shows. But this vertical also had its share of fraud attempts. Bot attacks were up 1010% and fraud pressure on aged accounts increased 887% in August from a year ago. 
  • Consumer abuse, when shoppers falsely claim an order never arrived or the goods received were not as described by the retailer, increased 95% across all verticals in August, year over year. Abuse rose particularly in home goods (423%), sporting goods (348%), apparel (104%) and electronics (98%), according to Signifyd’s data.

Signifyd saw sales for new school shoes soar 34% in August from the month before. Projected spending for 2022 on shoe sales is an average of $102.35 per household and $6.3 billion total, according to the NRF.  

Back-to-college spending will be record-setting

Despite the uncertainty and perils of the economy, the NRF says 2022 back-to-college spending is expected to reach nearly $74 billion, up from last year’s record of $71 billion and the highest in the survey’s history. Back-to-school spending for grades K-12 is expected to reach $37 billion, the NRF says, matching the 2021 record high.   

This record back-to-college spending reflects another NRF finding: This school year will see the lowest percentage of college students living at home since the pandemic started.

  “So at least for college we are seeing that return to a traditional moving into a dorm or an off-campus apartment or just moving out of their parents’ house, and that is fueling some interest in dorm and apartment furnishings right now,” says the NRF’s Katherine Cullen, senior director for industry and consumer insights.  

Not surprisingly, with shopping focused on back-to-school items, Signifyd data found that in August the apparel vertical rose 96% in gift card sales and 190% in gift card spending year over year. Also, the home goods category was up 224% in the gift card category. Across all verticals, gift card sales rose in August by 90% overall from last year, while gift-card spending was up 167%. 

Parents appear ready to get their kids moving

The sporting goods and leisure vertical also had a good month in August, and it may have to do with parents’ concern for their children’s mental as well as physical health. As little league and club soccer teams, as well as school and recreation activities, resume a pre-COVID schedule, sales across the sporting goods vertical rose 13% overall in August from a year ago, Signifyd data shows.  

Sporting goods and leisure includes some sedentary-activity goods, such as hobby supplies, games and media.  But sales in just sporting goods alone – bats, balls, sports shoes, etc. – were up 35% in August from last year, says Signifyd. According to Deloitte’s Vaz, parents are eager for their children to participate in different programs and resume the socialization they missed the past couple of years.

“Parents are concerned about their kids’ mental health and well-being, and they are willing to spend a little bit more to address it,” he says. “So, for example, 51% of parents have purchased some type of extracurricular activity, such as music or guitar classes, sports or some type of arts to really complement this well-being and mental health priorities. And then, we also noticed that 32% purchased some type of a wellness-related product.”  


Preparing to take full advantage of the 2022 holiday season? We can help.

Maryann Hudson

Maryann Hudson

Maryann Hudson is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is a former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the author of two books dealing with issues in youth sports. She is the editor of thecensustakers.com and a regular contributor to the Signifyd blog. Contact her at thecensustakers@gmail.com; or on Twitter @thecensustakers.