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5 things on every student’s Back to School shopping list

Back to School essentials: Students stock up on groceries

As the new academic year approaches, students across the US are composing their shopping lists. For those starting college this year, there are many first time purchases they’ll need to make, across a variety of brand categories. According to our student research, 63% begin Back to School shopping within July and August, so now is the perfect time to focus your marketing strategy on this valuable and influential demographic.

Here are five things on every student’s Back to School shopping list.


As 59% of students move to a new home when they start college, the home and living sector is a key area of spending in the run-up to the new school year. Student Beans users spend more on this category at the start of the academic year than any other time, and brands such as Target and Ikea are at the top of their shopping list according to our surveys. Curating a comfortable and attractive living space makes settling in at college easier, and 74% of students say the look and feel of their home is very important to them. 96% would spend more on this sector if more brands offered student discounts.

Back to School essentials: Students stock up on groceries


For those students moving to a new home, this will be the first time they’re doing their own grocery shopping. Our research has shown that US students typically visit a grocery store once a week. The majority still tend to visit the store in person, with 84% shopping in-store only, and the remaining 16% using a combination of in-store and online delivery. The most common amount to spend per shop is over $50, and the items they are most likely to purchase are fruit and vegetables, followed by snack foods and cooking ingredients.

Clothes, shoes and accessories

Fashion is another major focus of spending ahead of Back to School season, as students want to make sure they make a good impression with their new friends and peers on campus. Clothes, shoes, and accessories are a great way to express individuality and set the tone for how they want to be perceived in this new phase of their life. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Gymshark and PrettyLittleThing were the Student Beans brands generating the most sales in August-September 2019.

Tech devices

Another key spending category for Back to School shopping is technology. A laptop is essential for students today. The start of the academic year is the most common time to buy a laptop, ahead of Christmas or Black Friday. Starting college is also a popular time to refresh their smartphone – a great excuse to upgrade to the latest device. The most important factor for students when choosing a smartphone is quality, followed by cost, so they’re looking for the best deals on high tech products that will last.

College students splurge on tech as they head back to school

Household supplies

As they move into a new home, students will take on the responsibility of cooking and cleaning for themselves, along with other household activities that may have previously been handled by their parents. This means they’ll need to purchase products they haven’t bought before, choosing between brands in this category for the first time. Therefore, FMCG brands have a big opportunity to capture a loyal customer base by targeting students during Back to School season.

Download Back to School 2020: The Ultimate Guide to learn more about student spending at this crucial time of year, and how your brand can engage this important consumer group.

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