Back-to-school shopping can’t come soon enough for mall stores

Consumer spending on kids and young adults returning to the classroom not only is the second-largest shopping period behind the winter holidays, but it’s one when many conventional physical stores are holding their own against the surge of online competition.

The $84 billion back-to-school shopping season is back just in time as far as beleaguered mall merchants are concerned.

Consumer spending on kids and young adults returning to the classroom not only is the second-largest shopping period behind the winter holidays, but it’s one when many conventional physical stores are holding their own against the surge of online competition.

Although the growth of e-commerce has forced dozens of U.S. retail chains to close thousands of locations at malls and elsewhere, analysts said that children and their parents still like visiting stores to purchase items on their back-to-school lists — notebooks and lunchboxes and clothes and computers.

“This is one category where we’re seeing a surprising level of support for the in-store experience,” said Jim Mills, who heads the Southern California consumer business practice for Deloitte, the consulting and auditing firm.

Back-to-school shoppers plan to do most of their buying in physical stores, according to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation (NRF) by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Online shopping came in third, tied with clothing stores, when consumers were asked to name all the places they were planning to do their buying. Nearly 46 percent of those surveyed said they would do some online shopping, almost unchanged from a year ago but up about 10 percentage points from 2015, showing the strong growth of e-commerce.

In a separate survey, the International Council of Shopping Centers trade group found “that 68 percent of shoppers said they don’t envision buying all of their school supplies online,” spokeswoman Stephanie Cegielski said.

“People still want to see and touch and interact with products,” she said.

Retailers increasingly are making it easier for consumers to order products online and then have them delivered to their homes or pick them up at the store.

The latter option often prompts shoppers to stroll elsewhere in the store to buy other merchandise or — in the case of Wal-Mart Stores and Target, for instance — pick up groceries as well.

For many youngsters and their parents, the store visits are as important as the…

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