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Back-to-school season slightly different during COVID, says research

Field Agent Canada’s research shows the pandemic has changed how parents are shopping and preparing for the upcoming school year
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With back-to-school just around the corner, COVID-19 leaves the second largest shopping event of the year uncertain for many retailers and parents.

Field Agent Canada collects market research for retailers through its app where users can answer surveys and complete tasks for compensation. General manager Jeff Doucette says responses are slightly different with this year’s back-to-school survey.

“What we’re seeing is that parents are obviously a bit more apprehensive because they don’t know what school’s going to look like,” he says on NEWS 95.7’s The Sheldon MacLeod show.

“So, they don’t necessarily know what they’re going to need to buy.”

Doucette says the majority of parents typically say they’re going to spend more money than they did in the previous year. Now, that number has dropped in this year’s survey. He says, because not all provinces have released their plans for September, he thinks parents are unsure if they’ll have to buy supplies for a three-day in person school week or a full five days.

Still, many parents are certain supplies like hand sanitizer, face masks and gloves will be added to their shopping. For hand sanitizer, 75 per cent of parents were definitely adding it to their list of supplies. Face masks and gloves are less common at 47 per cent, but Doucette says that number can change depending on local policies.

According to Field Agent Canada’s research, COVID-19 is affecting more than just what’s on shopping lists.

This year, more parents have indicated they won’t send their child(ren) back to school regardless of their province’s plan. Last year, 2 per cent of children were homeschooled. Now, it’s up to 9 per cent.

E-commerce has also become more popular among parents. Last year, 32 per cent of respondents said they were moderately likely to use an in-store pickup method for their shopping. This year, that number is 44 per cent.

“In the last three or four months, things have happened that would probably have taken four or five years if we just had a normal economy and normal rollout of e-commerce,” Doucette says.

As COVID-19 makes things uncertain for the upcoming school year, Doucette says retailers will have to focus on their local communities.

“As a grocery retailer or any type of retailer,” Doucette says, “you just kind of have to think through the local situation and what parents are going to need and focus your energy on those things to help them meet the new rules that are going to be in place.”


Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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