One of the biggest seasons for retailers is happening right now—back-to-school. But due to the COVID-19 global pandemic the back-to-school shopping season is going to look different than it normally does. According to PayPal, here’s what you need to know to prepare.

PayPal just completed a survey of college students and parents of K-12 graders and despite all the uncertainty 40% of the parents and 35% of the college students plan to spend more this year than they did in 2019. College freshman will spend $732 on average, while the parent plan to spend $444.

Both groups—70% of college students and almost 75% of parents—plan to shop more online this year.

Perhaps directly as a result of the pandemic and many schools across the country staying closed for now, the parents and the college students are planning to buy remote learning equipment, with 63% saying they’ll spend more on remote learning furniture and home goods, while 59% will increase spending on remote learning and tech, including headphones, laptops and tablets, arts and crafts materials, monitors, and bookcases and desks, including standing desks.

PayPal advises retailers to make it easy for customers “to find what they’re looking for, easily and safely. That means acting on what customers will be looking for this season and potentially diversifying their online selection.”

Safety is of prime concern for shoppers driving 81% to spend more on face masks (reusable and disposable), hand sanitizer and gloves. Nearly 75% plan to spend more on disinfecting wipes—though I’ve still yet to find any in the stores.

PayPal also suggests retailers offer customers payment flexibility. In-store merchants should provide contactless payment options. And about 40% of the parents and nearly one-third of the college students want the option to pay over time, either, says PayPal, “through an installment plan, or having access to a digital line of credit, like PayPal Credit.”

The bottom line, says PayPal, is “to be as prepared as possible for the influx of new customer needs.” Shoppers, says PayPal, are looking for ways to make it work—and the more helpful you are, the more satisfied they’ll be.


Child in mask stock photo by Halfpoint/Shutterstock