Back-to-school spending increases in KSA and UAE


September 22, 2015 | By RetailME Bureau

A YouGov survey reveals that three-quarters of UAE parents have spent between 5-and-10% more on back-to-school purchases in 2015 compared to last year, while just under two-thirds (63%) of school parents in Saudi Arabia claim their back-to-school spending has increased by 5-10% in 2015 compared to the previous year.

In the UAE, almost 81% of school parents interviewed online by YouGov took advantage of promotional deals and sales when making purchases for the new school year with 41% of these claiming they took advantage of ‘many’ such deals. The sentiment was similar in Saudi Arabia too where promotions seems to have been a key driver of spend with three-quarters (75%) of those interviewed claiming they took advantage of sales and deals when purchasing for the new school year.

In KSA while school uniforms and stationary were rated by parents as the most important back-to-school purchases (62% each), school technology such as iPad and Kindle devices were deemed the least important purchases by the largest proportion of parents (63%). That was again similar in the UAE where school uniform and stationary also emerged as the most important back-to-school purchases for parents (32% and 26% of parents, respectively). Only 14% of the interviewed sample claimed school technology and gadgets – such as an iPad or a Kindle – were their most important school purchases.

In both countries, parents tend to be brand loyal and stick to familiar names as long as the deal is right. Last minute purchasing was common amongst the majority of parents in both KSA and the UAE. In the UAE, The majority of parents delayed major school purchases with over two-thirds (68%) claiming they made their purchases in the month leading up to school, while 40% claimed they actually only shopped a couple of weeks prior to the school start date. In KSA, 51% claimed to have made major purchases in preparation for the new school year again only one-to-two weeks in advance. This behaviour was particularly prevalent amongst high income-earners who earn $5,333 and above per month (65%).

In the UAE largest proportion (31%) of parents claimed they did not have to hunt for deals as there were promotions everywhere. Hypermarket and supermarket flyers also emerged as important sources of information for 15% of parents, while 14% of parents relied on referrals from other parents/friends on what is good to purchase or have a preferred store they are loyal to.

The use of digital resources to both search for and buy back-to-school items was minimal in the UAE with just 9% of parents searching online for their next purchase before going in-store to buy and only 8% both searching and purchasing back-to-school items online. In Saudi Arabia too going online was relatively unpopular with just 10% buying items online and 9% searching for items online before going in-store to purchase. Referrals from other parents/friends on what is good to buy were also not particularly popular (9%).

Despite an increase in spending compared to last year, parents in Saudi Arabia are still fairly resourceful with 62% claiming they re-use school items from the previous year with most (36%) handing them down to their next child. The tendency to re-use items decreases as parents’ income level increases – 71% of parents with a monthly income below $1,600 claim they re-use last year’s purchases compared to 42% of parents with a monthly income of $5,333 or more.

In the UAE too, many parents try to be resourceful with 31% claiming they keep last year’s school items and re-use them and another 27% claiming they hand them down to their next child. As may have been expected, the tendency to re-use items was lowest among parents in the most affluent income group (47% of those with a monthly household income of $5,333 and above re-use school items from the previous year).

“Back-to-school time can be a stressful and expensive period for parents. It’s therefore not surprising to see many parents in both Saudi Arabia and the UAE taking advantage of deals and promotions at this time of the year or even look to recycle school items from the previous years. It’s interesting to see much of the pressure to purchase new items is self-imposed as parents look to provide their child with the very best and latest in the market,” says Joao Neves, YouGov’s senior research director for education.

Research for this survey was conducted online among 507 and 634 parents with children at school in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, respectively, between August 25 and September 2, 2015. Data is broadly representative of the online population in both countries.

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