Canadians this year are expected to spend almost double what they spent on school supplies last year as technology reshapes what they are buying, and also how and when they are making their purchases.
Households will spend an average of $883 preparing for this year's school season, nearly twice the $450 spent last year, according to an Angus Reid poll commissioned by RetailMeNot Inc., an online promotions site.
"School supply lists are getting longer than they used to and with the rise of technology being used, that adds to the cost, which is why we are spending more, year over year," said Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert with RetailMeNot.
But it's how they are shopping that may have the biggest implications for retailers: more Canadians are going online for supplies and clothes. A survey by eBay Canada found that 54 per cent of Canadians plan on doing of some of their back-to-school shopping online. Ebates, a coupon and discount aggregation site, pegged the number at 67 per cent.
As shopping shifts online, the back-to-school season for retailers is getting longer. Traditionally, sales reach their peak in the last few weeks of August. While they still do, according to Nicole Bell, Google Canada's retail and trends expert, consumers are now searching for school supplies and fall clothing as early as June, with searches peaking around the end of July.
RetailMeNot's Ms. Skirboll says retailers are trying to take advantage by offering back-to-school promotions earlier, often starting in July. An increasing number of Canadians, however, are also waiting until the school year is well under way to make their purchases. Tamara Szames, an analyst who studies the clothing and footwear market in Canada for NPD Group, found that a good chunk of those purchases in recent years occurred in September and October, as parents spread out their purchases. "That whole mentality is changing," says Ms. Szames.
Other trends are also emerging.
When looking at the gender breakdown of household spending, dads are more likely to spend more on their kids' wish lists. RetailMeNot's study found that 66 per cent of fathers prioritized getting what they felt their children needed over saving money, whereas 58 per cent of mothers felt that way.
Ebates found that the amount dads claimed to spend on average was $12 more than what moms spend. Ebates also found that dads are 16 per cent more likely to shop online than moms.
Meanwhile, the nineties appear to be making a comeback. The prefall shopping season often reveals what styles teens and young adults will be wearing to school. Google Canada found that the most-searched items include overalls, crop tops, flannel shirts and fanny packs – all items that may spark some nostalgic feelings for those who were in school during the nineties.
Heritage brands that were popular around that time are back in fashion as well. Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger saw earnings jumps of 8 per cent and 4 per cent, respectively last quarter. Hanesbrands Inc.'s classic athletic brand, Champion, saw a 7-per-cent rise in profit.