Southern California Consumers Optimistic About Economy

(Business Wire — August 4, 2001) Southern California consumers are optimistic about the economy’s future, and will be demonstrating that enthusiasm by spending at least the same amount or more this year on back-to-school shopping versus last year, according to the “2001 Back-to-School Shopping Outlook Survey — Southern California,” a study released today by Deloitte & Touche LLP. Over half (59%) of the families with school-age children surveyed plan to spend $200 or more per child on back-to-school clothing, which most (87%) say is about the same or more than they spent in 2000. The majority of the respondents (70%) expect the economy to stay the same or improve in the next 12 months.

In San Diego, the survey respondents were slightly less optimistic than the region overall: 67% expect the economy to stay the same or improve in the coming year, with nearly 57% planning to spend $200 or more on back-to-school clothing.

“Consumer sentiment regarding back-to-school spending is an encouraging sign for retailers who have recently suffered from flat-to-negative comp store sales trends,” said Theresa Drew, managing partner for the San Diego office of Deloitte & Touche.

The additional findings of the study included:

Internet Shopping Levels Off; Inability to Try On Clothing and Security Woes Remain

Online shopping appears to be leveling off, with 13% of respondents planning to buy their back-to-school items via the Internet this year, compared to 13% in 2000. The obstacles to Internet shopping still remain, with the inability to try on clothing as the most often cited response for not using the Internet to purchase back-to-school apparel (48%). Other major obstacles mentioned were security worries (20%), limited selection (12%), lack of a computer or Internet access (11%), expensive delivery/shipping charges (10%), inconvenience (9%), and discomfort with Internet transactions (8%).

In San Diego, Internet usage mirrored that of the Southern California region overall, with 13% of respondents planning to do their back-to-school shopping via the Internet, compared to about 15% last year.

Department Stores Replace Discount Stores as Favored Shopping Venue

More families plan to do the majority of their shopping in department stores, 39% this year, versus 38% last year. Additionally, 33% prefer discount stores, versus 44% last year; and 20% favor specialty stores, versus 29% last year.

Department stores are also the venue of choice for San Diego shoppers (41%), compared to discount stores (36%), and specialty stores (17%).

Catalog Shopping Still Popular

While a larger number of Southern California respondents (20%) plan to shop via catalogs rather than online, that number dipped slightly from last year (22%). As in past years, older shoppers were more apt to say they’d use catalogs; 25% of those aged 45 and older plan to do so, versus 15% of those aged 35-44, and 17% of those under age 34.

Quality Merchandise Continues to Be Important Attribute

Southern California consumers continue to rank quality merchandise as the most important attribute (96% of respondents) they look for when considering where to shop for back-to-school. Other important factors included low prices (94%), convenient store location (92%), large selection (91%), and good customer service (91%).

San Diego shoppers ranked quality merchandise and low prices of equal importance (97% each), with a large selection and convenient store location tying for second place (92% each).

Gap and Quiksilver Oft Mentioned “Must-Have” Brands; Skateboard Clothing Sought

Slightly more than a third (36%) of parents said they planned to buy specific brands, a sizable increase from last year (26%). The most often mentioned “must-have” brands were Quiksilver and Gap (17% each), followed by Levi’s (12%), Old Navy (10%), and Roxy (7%). Skateboard clothing or other items (12% of mentions), and jeans (9%) led the most cited items.

Other supplies parents will stock up on this back-to-school season include backpacks (45%), plus the obvious pens, pencils, and notebooks. Skateboards and scooters, popular in previous years, were rarely mentioned this year. Other items that kids were clamoring for included glitter, cosmetics, cell phones, CDs, and hand-held and other computers.

August Remains Biggest Back-to-School Shopping Month, But Many Waiting Until September

The majority of respondents (72%) plan to do their back-to-school shopping in August, while increased numbers (14% this year versus 9% last year) were waiting until September. A few (6%) had already hit the stores in June and July.

About the Study

The “2001 Back-to-School Shopping Outlook Survey — Southern California” was designed to gauge consumer opinion about how much they plan to spend this season, where and when they plan to shop, and what is important in a retailer. Deloitte & Touche conducted the survey of 400 Southern California families with school-aged children. Phone interviews were conducted in late June and early July.

About Deloitte & Touche

Deloitte & Touche LLP, one of the nation’s leading professional services firms, provides assurance and advisory, tax, and management consulting services through nearly 30,000 people in more than 100 U.S. cities. The firm is dedicated to helping our clients and our people excel. Known as an employer of choice for innovative human resources programs, Deloitte & Touche has been recognized as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” by Fortune magazine for four consecutive years. Deloitte & Touche is the US national practice of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu is a Swiss Verein, and each of its national practices is a separate and independent legal entity. For more information, please visit Deloitte & Touche’s web site at