COVID-19 and the impact on back to school shopping

by Mark Crumrine •

Five months into the COVID-19 pandemic and retail continues to adapt and change. Back to school shopping has produced a new challenge for the industry as brick and mortar retailers across the USA remain closed. Parents (unsure about where, when, and how their kids will be going to school) and entire school districts don’t know when normal operations will resume.

During this strange shopping season – where more students than ever before will be learning remotely – Bizrate Insights surveyed consumers to ask how the pandemic has shaped their back-to-school shopping plans.

Consumers might not shop at all

An overwhelming majority of surveyed shoppers – 78% – said that the pandemic will affect their shopping in some way. An additional 11% of respondents said they weren’t sure. Only a small fraction of survey respondents reported no changes in their back to school shopping plans.

Bar chartSource: Bizrate Insights Flash Survey, August 2020.

Additionally – when we asked if shoppers planned to do any back to school shopping this year, 76% of respondents stated they would not.

Bar chartSource: Bizrate Insights Flash Survey, August 2020.

For Parents, Teachers, and Students – A deal or discount online may be key

For those parents, students, and teachers who do plan to shop for the back-to-school season – many will adjust their shopping behaviors. We wanted to know what shopping habits COVID-19 had the most impact on.

56% of respondents said they would shop online for their school items, and roughly 34% said they would actively seek deals and discounts to help them make their purchases. With the new e-commerce and e-learning environment, roughly 27% of shoppers said that they will need to spend more on online/remote learning services.

Pie chartSource: Bizrate Insights Flash Survey, August 2020.

Younger Shoppers (college students and young parents) plan to spend less and stay on budget

College age students, and young parents are especially affected by COVID-19. 86% of 18-29 y/o respondents said that their back to school shopping would be affected by the pandemic. Of those same respondents, 43% said they had a budget of $100 or less (per student) and 51% said they plan to stick to their budgets.

With traditionally fewer dollars to spend, younger shoppers are feeling the pressure of the back to school season by restricting their budgets and making wiser purchases.


COVID-19 will have a significant impact on this year’s back to school shopping season. Most surveyed shoppers reporting that the pandemic had changed their shopping plans in some way, and many shoppers (especially young shoppers) are looking for as many deals and opportunities as they can.

These results come in after a slew of customer survey reports Bizrate Insights have conducted throughout the pandemic. From holiday shopping plans, to the change in retail environments – we are collecting the necessary data to keep the industry informed about new shopper trends.

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