Back-to-School Shopping Is a Dying American Tradition


Does anything inspire as much nostalgia as the thought of back-to-school shopping? Can’t you see the rows and rows of school supplies, beckoning with promises of fresh starts and better grades? Let the memories of crisp Lisa Frank folders and fresh spiral-bound notebooks and squeaking new sneakers wash over you. You can practically smell the crayons, even now!

Unfortunately, back-to-school shopping is probably dying.

Consider the forecast for this year’s sales, via AdWeek. According to The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research, 36 percent of American shoppers plan to skip back-to-school shopping entirely. That would be a 5 percent year-over-year drop, on top of a 3.5 percent slide from 2012 to 2013. Some theories include household cost-cutting:

Craig Elston, svp of insight and strategy at The Integer Group, offered a theory on what triggered the decline. “A combination of several factors could explain why a third of the respondents won’t be shopping, including fewer school-age children in the home and households repurposing school supplies and merchandise to help minimize costs.”

Now, sure, maybe this is just a temporary blip—it’s not like the overall economy is exactly fizzy.

What’s interesting, though, is that even people who are shopping are increasingly doing so online. Which doesn’t even count! According to Deloitte’s 2014 back-t0-school survey, 38 percent of respondents plan to shop online, and it’s now the number two shopping destination for back-to-school (after discount stores). Plus, the Internet is the place parents most commonly go to research back-to-school purchases.

I guess it’s easier to rely on Amazon Prime, rather than dragging the kids to Walmart in the waning days of summer. So add back-to-school shopping to the list of antiquated traditions you’ll be forced to explain any future offspring.

Photo via Andrey Emelyanenko/Shutterstock.

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