Aug 8, 2020

Although the first day of fall isn’t until September 22nd, the back-to-school season is well underway. In fact, regardless if schools are kicking off with in-person or virtual instruction, all of them will be “opened” in some capacity by next week. That said, 2020 continues to be a time of endless uncertainty, and the big question in retailers’ minds is, “How will the pandemic affect back-to-school shopping this year?

Here are the key findings from the study:

A new study by What If Media Group, a performance-marketing company that reaches millions of consumers every day across its proprietary media properties, reveals parents’ latest spending behaviors and preferences as they set up their children for academic success.

  • 78% of parents are taking an “all-or-nothing” approach, by either sending their kids back-to-school Monday through Friday or keeping them home indefinitely. Moreover, 57% of parents taking this approach have indicated that their child is being homeschooled full-time until further notice.

  • Regarding budgets, 64% of parents believe they will be spending the same or more than in previous years.

  • The largest category increase in spending has been for computer equipment, with 37% of households expecting an increase and 28% expecting to spend the same.

  • Meanwhile, the biggest decline in spending over previous years is in sporting equipment, with 42% reporting that they would be spending less.

  • One of the most surprising categories was regarding enthusiasm in purchasing Board Games and Puzzles, with 38% indicating they would be spending less compared to previous years — despite over half of parents reporting they intend to home-school their children.

Although the pandemic is causing over half of the parents to keep their children home during the school season, spending can be expected to either maintain or increase across the board. Unsurprisingly, the category most negatively impacted is sporting goods. With fewer kids physically attending school because of health concerns, this will also result in a decrease in sporting events.


The What If Media Group survey was conducted online within the United States from August 24, 2020, through August 27, 2020, among 6,774 adults. Respondents were randomly selected and the findings are at a 99% confidence level with a margin of error +/- 2%. What If Media Group’s proprietary ad-serving technology includes a real-time survey module that was used to facilitate the data collection for this study. Data was weighted to the 2010 US Census.

For any questions about the survey or methodology, please email [email protected].

About What If Media Group, LLC:

Founded in 2012, What If Media Group is an award-winning, performance-marketing company that enables the world’s leading brands to acquire valuable new customers at scale. By leveraging data-driven engagement and re-engagement strategies across multiple proprietary marketing channels and sophisticated targeting technology, and utilizing insights based on millions of consumer ad interactions each day, What If Media Group delivers the most cost-effective and highest-performing marketing campaigns for its clients. Headquartered in Fort Lee, New Jersey, What If Media Group is a recipient of Crain’s 2019 Fast 50 and is a four-time consecutive member of the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. To learn more, please visit WhatIfMediaGroup.com.

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