Return of the Zoomies

In-school learning is set to return in full force. What does this mean for back-to-school sales?

Ah, the smell of sharpened pencils, worn-in textbooks, and cafeteria lunch trays. 69% of parents plan to send their children to in-person school this fall. So, as a large contingent of students, after a year of remote learning (‘Zoomies’ in grade school parlance) get set to return to classrooms this fall (becoming ‘Roomies’ once again), we set out to discover how yet another historic shift driven by the pandemic will impact retail & ecommerce sales.

clear eyes, full desks

Key takeaways:

  • Note that we asked about spending plans versus 2019—where in-person learning was the assumed default—so a significant change in spending plans can be taken as above-and-beyond what might have been if this were a “normal” year.
  • Apparel/footwear purchases are up 14%, with Gen Z (some of whom are still in college) and Millennials (many of whom are parents of schoolchildren) up 16-17%.
  • Electronics are as popular as school supplies, and even more popular among Gen Z and Millennials—which is surprising given historically high demand for electronics in 2020, as parents shopped to meet the needs of remote learning.
    • Related to this, 62% of consumers told us they think in-person learning will look different, based on the experiences of virtual schooling in the past year—with exposure to online learning leaving a lasting mark on teaching practices.
  • Millennials are spending significantly more than other age groups in nearly every category, over-buying to ‘soften’ the blow of their young children experiencing such significant changes in the past 18 months.
    • Parents are also worried about reacclimating their kids to social interaction. 52% said they had decided or were considering signing up their kids for more extracurricular activities to increase social interaction after a year of virtual learning. Only 20% said they weren’t.
    • Given this, we would have expected a higher lift in the sporting goods and hobbies segments, but if parents are spending more in every category, something has to give.

BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture,and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult //2000+ consumers surveyed June-July 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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