Back-to-School Shopping Expected to Reach $83.6 Billion

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Back-to-school spending is expected to reach its second-highest spending level on record,  According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, total spending including college and school combined is expected to reach $83.6 billion, more than a 10% increase from  2016’s $75.8 billion.

NRF President and CEO, Matthew Shay said in a press release that families are in a state of mind where they feel more confident about the economy.

“With stronger employment levels and continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year,” said Shay in a press release.  “As students head back to the classroom, retailers are prepared to meet their needs whether it’s for pencils and paper, shirts and pants or laptops and tablets.”

Families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average of $687.72 each on school-related items for a total of $29.5 billion, an 8% increase from last year’s $27.3 billion.

The survey revealed that back-to-school shoppers plan to spend $10.2 billion in clothing, $8.8 billion in electronics such as computers or calculators.  Ninety-three percent of shoppers are expected to spend $5.6 billion on shoes, while $4.9 billion on school supplies.

It is expected that parents will spend an average of $238.89 on clothing, $204.33 on electronics and $130.38 on shoes and $114.12 on school supplies.

Shoppers are also starting their lists early, with 27% beginning two months before the beginning of the school year, up 22% from last year.  However, 21% will wait until the last week or two before school starts, about the same time as last year’s 22%.  Those shopping early, 60% say they are trying to spread out their budgets, 48% say don’t want to miss out on sales and 43% want to avoid the crowds.

For college shoppers, 32% will start two months before school compared with 26% last year.  Only 21% will leave shopping until the last week or two before school starts, this is down 25% from last year. Of those shopping early, 64% are trying to spread out their budgets, 41% don’t want to miss out on sales and 37% want to avoid crowds.

When it comes to where back-to-school shoppers will purchase items, 57% said they will shop in department stores, 54% at discount stores and 46% at clothing stores and online.  Thirty-six percent expect to shop at office supply store.  For those shopping online, 91% plan to take advantage of free shipping and 54% will buy online and pick up in-store.

Back-to-college shoppers said they will shop online (44%), 40% are expected to shop in discount stores, 39% to department stores and 34% to college bookstores with 29% to office supply stores.

MCM Musings:

It was often said in past years that back-to-school shopping was an early indicator of how the upcoming holiday would play out.  If this is still the case, it looks like it could be a prosperous holiday season for retailers.

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