UK Back to School Spending Habits

Published Sep 05, 2022

Caroline Capel, Enterprise Account Director – CPG & Retail at Toluna UK

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Over half of parents will spend more on school uniforms and accessories this year

Over one in three anticipate they’ll spend £100 or more per child than last year on back-to-school shopping.

To understand how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting back-to-school shopping, we surveyed 500 parents and guardians in the UK about their spending plans ahead of the new school term.

With the new academic year starting next week, it is evident that parents are facing ever-increasing costs for school uniform, accessories, and other education-related items.

Spend per child is set to soar

Over one in four (27%) parents plan to spend between £26-£50 more per child than last year, and a similar proportion (24%) of respondents said they’ll spend between £51 and £100 per child more than in 2021. Shockingly, 13% said they would spend even more—between £101-£249 more per child.

Where parents plan to do their back-to-school shopping

Over half of respondents (51%) said they’ll shop for back-to-school items both online and in-store, reinforcing the importance of a seamless, omnichannel environment. Therefore, it’s imperative to communicate a consistent message throughout the customer journey—and across all channels—in order to meet the needs of today’s shoppers.

When asked about specific retailers, parents said they’re planning to buy school uniforms from ASDA (38%), Tesco (28%), and Marks and Spencer (24%). Unsurprisingly, competitive prices and value are at top-of-mind for consumers.

How they plan to save money on back-to-school shopping

Over half (51%) of parents said they will re-use uniforms and other school items from last year, while over a quarter of respondents (26%) will switch to lower-priced brands and 22% said they will switch to cheaper retailers.

However, school uniforms and accessories are not the only areas where parents are looking to save money. This term will even see a change in how parents get their children to school. Nearly half (46%) of respondents say they’ll save money by walking their children to and from school, and nearly a quarter (24%) will ditch the car in favour of public transportation. An additional 16% are planning on arranging car-sharing journeys in hopes of keeping costs down. When it comes to the traditional school dinner, interestingly, 41% said they will be switching to packed lunches to save money. With all of these changes added up, it’s clear that the cost-of-living crisis is having a profound effect on the nation’s children.

However, interestingly money saving initiatives such as vouchers are facilitating back-to-school leisure trips…  

While parents are looking to save money this back-to-school season, 70% are still planning a leisure occasion to mark the end of the holidays or start of the new term with their children. Almost half (47%) of respondents are planning a visit to a cinema, while 45% plan to have a meal in a restaurant, and 38% will visit a quick-service restaurant. However, they’ll apply the money-saving mentality to these expenditures, as well; nearly seven in ten (68%) will use money-off vouchers or special promotions (including loyalty card points) to pay for this back-to-school occasion.

This mentality is also evidenced in the buying process for school supplies. The survey also reveals that, if consumers are unable to find a brand due to poor availability, 39% would switch to a lower-priced brand. An additional 32% of respondents would try to find a brand in a different store, which reinforces the importance of having good stock availability at this key time of year.

Laurence Vogel, Enterprise Account Director, CPG & Retail, Toluna, said: “It’s clear that the cost-of-living crisis is having a big impact on families as school uniforms and back-to-school items become more expensive. Parents are already opting for lower-priced brands and switching to cheaper retailers, demonstrating why it’s vital that brands and their retailers must meet consumers where they are at, by changing their product offering and messaging to be relevant for them.”

If you would like to learn more about this study and how Toluna is currently supporting companies with agile solutions to their cost-of-living challenges, please do not hesitate to contact Caroline on 

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