August 09, 2016 13:47 ET

Back-To-School Spending Will Be Robust According to Initiative Study

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Aug. 9, 2016) - Step up to the starting line - the mad dash for back-to-school shopping is set to begin with 77 per cent of parents indicating that they will spend as much, if not more, than they did last year to get their children ready for the upcoming school year.

With back-to-school just around the corner, Initiative has conducted a study targeting full-time students 18-24 and parents of school aged children 3-17 to understand consumer behavior around this busy time. According to Statistics Canada, the total value spent on children's (excluding infants) clothing and accessories during back-to-school (Q3) is $552 million.

"Having well defined creative and an aggressive media strategy are critical if you're a retailer hoping to cut yourself a piece of this pie," said Nish Shah, Vice President Strategy for Initiative. "Our research offers insight into student-parent spending power, what they are purchasing and other relative trends. Beyond clothes, shoes and school supplies, increasingly parents are shopping for the best cellular plan."

On average, parents plan to spend $480 on back-to-school products (excluding tuition), more than double the average of $208 spent by kids 18-24 years. Just over a third of parents will spend between $101-$250 for back-to-school, while a quarter will spend up to $500. One in five spends less than $100, while 11 per cent spend over $1,000. This year, 18 per cent of parents will spend more on back-to-school products than they did last year and 59 per cent will spend the same.

Before any spending occurs, four in five (79%) parents will conduct research in advance for back-to-school items needed. Two-thirds of parents research within five weeks from start of school, while half (48%) are within 3 weeks. Debit cards are used most often to pay for back-to-school purchases, used by 46 per cent of parents and 48 per cent of 18-24 year-old students. Four in ten parents use credit cards (39%), with three times as many using a card with points (31%) versus one without points. Only 28 per cent of students 18-24 years use a credit card.

"Budgeting for back-to-school is a stressful time for most Canadians," added Shah. "Despite the immediate need to pay for clothes and school supplies, we were encouraged to see that most parents have a plan in place to help their children pay for a post-secondary education."

To help fund higher education, the majority of parents stated they currently have a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) in place (57%), while 16 per cent have heard of RESPs and intend to start one. There is an opportunity to educate parents about these plans. Almost 3 in 10 were not familiar with RESPs (28%): 8 per cent intend to find out more, while 20 per cent did not intend to find out more.


  • Clothing = 53% Parents vs. 47% Students
  • Shoes = 48% Parents vs. 34% Students
  • Lunch supplies = 38% Parents
  • School supplies = 50% Parents vs. 60% Students
  • Computer = 15% Parents vs. 30% Students
  • Cell phone = 9% Parents vs. 29% Students

In surveying full-time students 18-24 years, they indicated parents are twice as likely to be paying for their back-to-school shopping than students themselves. Four in ten stated the parents paid for most or all (39%) of the expenses, while 22 per cent of students paid for all their own purchases. Over half (54%) stated the parents paid for at least 50 per cent of the expenses.

When asked what most influences back to school purchase decisions, their own preference was stated most often (54%), followed by social media 12 per cent and friends/family (10%). Newspaper ads/flyers (9%), store websites (8%) and on-line ads/search (6%) also had influence on their back to school purchases.

The on-line study was conducted from July 10-15 based on 400 respondents who were parents with children 3-17 and 100 full-time students 18-24 years.

About Initiative

Initiative is a global communications network within IPG Mediabrands, one of the world's preeminent media services entities and part of Interpublic Group (NYSE:IPG). Initiative employs more than 2,500 creative and dynamic colleagues in 94 offices in 73 countries managing approximately $14 billion in billings annually. Initiative's comprehensive range of communications services include: insight and strategy, analytics, media planning and buying, digital communications, branded content creation, evaluation and accountability services and social media strategy and community management.

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