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Taking Tech to Class: 59% of U.S. Back-to-School Shoppers Plan to Buy Tech, Says CTA Research

Arlington, VA – August 3, 2016 – 

Fifty-nine percent of Americans who have done or plan to do back-to-school shopping this year (37 percent) expect to buy tech or tech accessories – an increase of 12 percentage points over last year, according to research released today from the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA)™. The Role of Consumer Tech in Back-to-School Shopping study finds an estimated $18.5 billion have or will be spent this year on back-to-school tech products/accessories in 2016 – a 6.2 percent increase over last year.
The top ten back-to-school tech products consumers plan to buy this year are:


  1. Portable memory (71 percent)

  2. Basic calculator (55 percent)

  3. Headphones (52 percent)

  4. Scientific/graphing calculator (51 percent)

  5. Carrying or protective case (48 percent)

  6. Laptop (44 percent)

  7. Software for computer (39 percent)

  8. External hard drive (23 percent)

  9. Tablet (22 percent)

  10. Product subscription service (22 percent)

“Early back-to-school promotions are building interest and momentum for the second-largest shopping event of the year,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research, CTA. “Deals on the tech items for back-to-school including 2-1 laptops, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, tablets and more are creating excitement among consumers. This consumer enthusiasm also bodes well for tech sales across the second half of the year.”
Almost all back-to-school shoppers (95 percent) plan to visit physical stores to complete their shopping. Of those, consumers plan to visit:

  • Mass merchant store (88 percent)

  • Office supply store (56 percent)

  • Department store (47 percent)

  • Discount or thrift store (43 percent)

  • Consumer tech store (36 percent)

Additionally, half of back-to-school shoppers (49 percent) plan to shop at an online retailer, including:

  • Online-only retailer’s website (80 percent)

  • Retailer’s website (69 percent)

  • Auction website (35 percent)

  • Manufacturer’s website (30 percent)

  • Free classified ad website (13 percent)

Most back-to school shopping takes place in the month of August (60 percent), and a large majority of consumers will begin back-to-school shopping either one month before school starts (41 percent) or one to four weeks before school starts (40 percent).
Overall, adoption of the Internet of Things and enthusiasm for emerging tech will drive the U.S. consumer technology industry to $286.6 billion in retail revenues in 2016, according to CTA’s U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts, a semi-annual report that forecasts 300+ product categories including back-to-school staples such as 2-in-1 laptops, tablets, smartphones, headphones, Bluetooth speakers and more.
The Role of Consumer Tech in Back-to-School Shopping was designed and formulated by CTA, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends for the consumer technology industry. The report will be available at