Back-to-School Shopping Trends 2021

After over a year of quarantine and e-learning, children and families are eager for the return to the classroom. We predict that their spending and purchasing habits will reflect this. In this article, we explore the back-to-school shopping trends for 2021.

It’s that time of the year again – back-to-school (BTS) shopping season. Last year we looked at the trends for purchasing clothing during a pandemic and compared the shopping habits with buying patterns from previous years. At the time, we found that sales for activewear increased, while typical back-to-school items like jeans, sweaters, and long sleeve shirts, declined in purchases. We attributed these purchasing trends to the world being on lockdown and kids learning virtually from home rather than in the classroom. 

Kids back in school

This year, we dive into the data again to determine what’s changed from last year. We expect shopping trends to be quite different as the world tries to recover from over a year in quarantine. Schools are reopening and kids will be back in the classroom starting this fall according to new information from the CDC encouraging schools to fully reopen. The return to in-person learning is sure to change the purchasing and spending habits of many families. Let’s take a look at some research that supports increased spending on back-to-school items.

Increased Spending on BTS Shopping

Deloitte forecasts that back-to-school “spending is expected to reach $32.5 billion, up 16% from 2020 and 17% from 2019.” According to a forecast from Customer Growth Partners, apparel and accessories sales will soar 46% from 2020 during the back-to-school season, stronger growth than it expects from other categories.

The top categories for back-to-school shopping are electronics, clothing, and shoes. With clothing and accessories spending up $19 on average per household from 2020. Many of these people are continuing to shop online, however, in-store shopping remains flat to last year at 43%, compared to online at 39%.

Now that we know clothing is a top category for back-to-school shopping, let’s take a look at our data from our analytics tool, Fit Intelligence, to see what items are popular this year. Typically around this time of year, we expect fall items to increase in purchases. Popular categories for back-to-school shopping include jeans, sweaters, long sleeve shirts, flannels, and more. 

July tends to be a busy month for back-to-school shopping since most schools start in August or at the beginning of September. There are typically sales or incentives to shop early and many families like to take advantage of those sales. Our data proves that popular items like sweaters, long sleeve shirts, flannels, and pullovers all increased in purchases from June to July 2021. Most notably, the sale of flannels and sweaters went up by 34% and 30% month-over-month. When compared to last year, the number of flannel purchases increased by 53% from July 2020 to July 2021. Sweaters saw a solid spike of 23% from July 2020 to July 2021. 

Change in Purchases of Flannels & Sweaters

On the other hand, activewear sales decreased for several products. Leggings sales declined by 12% from June to July 2021 and yoga pants dipped by 18% over that same time. We believe this is due to the excitement about being back in the classroom. Rather than sitting behind a screen all day with only their top half showing, kids will be back in school and want to show off their new clothes. 

Change in Purchases of Leggings & Yoga Pants

A Year of Change

It’s interesting to observe what a difference a year can make, but we sure are glad to see a positive trend in back-to-school shopping and spending. While there are still some questions about what might happen this school year, families and children alike are eager to return to the classroom and their spending habits reflect that. 

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