Online vs. In Store: What costs less for back to school?

Local 6 compares brick and mortar with online stores

Published On: Aug 01 2013 11:00:05 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 01 2013 11:37:48 PM EDT
ORLANDO, Fla. -

According to the National Retail Federation, an Americans will spend an estimated $3.8 billion on school supplies this year.

[WEB EXTRA: School Supply Price Comparison]

While most people will purchase back to school items at discount stores, the NRF survey found that 37 percent of them will do at least some of their shopping online.

To find out where better pricing is available, Local 6 selected six common school supplies and purchased them at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers.

The small-scale experiment was done at Walmart, Target, Office Depot and Staples and each retailers respective online store.

The items purchased were 12 No. 2 pencils, a 1-inch-3-ring binder, 10 two-pocket folders, a scientific calculator, 12 Bic blue ballpoint pens, and a 100 page composition notebook.

The study was conducted on the same day in late July, after back to school promotions began and immediately prior to Florida tax-free weekend.

Most items had better pricing in the actual store, like two-pocket folders for example.  Most retailers sell them for 15 cents a piece.  Staples had the best price on them at 10 cents a piece.  Online they were only available in packs of 10 or more, costing 4.29 for the pack at both Staples.com and OfficeDepot.com.

Online, we found the best pricing for Bic Blue Ballpoint pens at OfficeDepot.com where you can get 12 for $1.69. At WalMart.com you can purchase two 12 packs for just two dollars.

Target has the lowest priced scientific calculator at $5.99, and WalMart.com bested all other brick-and-mortar and online retailers with a price of $6.22.

Overall, we spent about $8 more online at the least expensive web option than the least expensive brick-and-mortar option.

Target had the best prices for all six items combined, with our total before taxes coming out at $14.54.  Walmart was a close second with a total cost of $14.83.

Neither of those retailers performed as well as the office supply stores when it came to online pricing.   Target.com only offered two of our six items online.

OfficeDepot.com had the lowest online pricing before shipping at $22.54.

The shipping for all the online stores, brought the prices up anywhere from $5 to $10 over the original subtotal so consumers will definitely spend more for that convenience.

Most stores offer free shipping if a certain amount is spent, and many items are available for in-store pickup.

Amazon.com offered the lowest price for shipping and appeared to only charge taxes for items shipping directly from Amazon.  The total price for items before shipping at Amazon was $23.70, and $29.55 after shipping and taxes.

To get the best pricing at Amazon, we had to purchase from several different online stores meaning that the items would all ship at different times.

You can view the breakdown of our entire experiment here.