U.S. retail sales during the back-to-school shopping season of July and August 2017 will grow 4.0 percent over 2016, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast. Last year set a record for back-to-school season sales, but 2017 will be even better. U.S. retail sales during those core months will reach $857.18 billion, comprising 17.0 percent of total retail sales for the year.
E-commerce for the back-to-school season will grow 14.8 percent to $74.03 billion in 2017. That represents 8.6 percent of total retail sales (online and offline) for the period, larger than the 7.8 percent share last year.
“E-commerce growth this year comes on top of a strong year last year, making it that much more impressive,” said eMarketer Senior Analyst Yory Wurmser. “Younger consumers that shop in preparation for going back to high school and college actually prefer shopping online, so e-commerce growth should continue for the foreseeable future.”
Five product areas play an outsized role during the back-to-school season:
• apparel and accessories
• books, music and videos
• computers and consumer electronics
• office equipment and supplies
• toys and hobbies, including sporting goods
Back-to-school e-commerce sales in these core categories during July and August will exceed the quarterly growth rate for e-commerce overall at 15.8 percent, reaching $37.56 billion. It will also be in marked contrast to the poor growth numbers of brick & mortar stores in these core areas.
“Several core product areas are among the sectors with the highest e-commerce penetration,” said Wurmser. “Even apparel, which traditionally has been bought in stores, is increasingly moving online.”
eMarketer excludes home goods from its definition of core back-to-school product categories despite the big role that dorm shopping plays in back-to-school. Although important, home goods do not see a significant bump in sales during the back-to-school season relative to other parts of the year.
eMarketer’s forecasts and estimates are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies. Data is weighted based on methodology and soundness. Each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas.