Back-to-School Spending to Reach $74.9B

WASHINGTON -- Driven by increased demand for electronic items and parents’ need to restock their children’s school supplies from last year, families this summer will spend slightly more on back-to-school items than last year, the National Retail Federation projects.

The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5% from last year.

Combined spending for back to school and college is expected to reach $74.9 billion, the National Retail Federation's 2014 Back-to-School Survey found. Total spending will drop slightly to $26.5 billion, the survey finding there are slightly fewer students in households this summer.

This year the federation survey broke out spending by grade and its survey discerned that families with high school students will spend the most. It also found the family who shops for high school students will spend $682.99 on average while spending on middle school/junior high comes in a close second at $682.13. Parents with elementary school-age children will spend $580.94 on average.

Overall, every category will see an increase in spending, including healthy increases in spend on supplies and electronics. According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers will spend $212.35 on electronic items on average, up 7% from last year, with the total spent projected to reach $8.4 billion. High school students and their families specifically will spend an average $229.88 on electronic items.

Cash-strapped school districts have been asking parents to provide more classroom supplies, so spending in this category should increase 12% to an average of $101.18 compared to last year. Moreover, shoppers will spend an average of $231.30 on clothes, up from $230.85, and $124.46

For the first time, the federation asked parents and guardians about their plans to shop at local/small businesses for their needs: 17.4% said they will buy school items there.

As in recent years, early-bird shoppers are once again leading the charge, but this year some parents and their children will wait until late August to tackle their school lists. The survey found that 25.4% will take advantage of retailers’ late summer deals and shop one to two weeks before school, up from 21.8% last year; 22.5% will shop at least two months before school starts, and another 44.5% will shop three weeks to one month before. Another 4.3% will shop the week school starts and 3.4% will start after the start of the school year.

Students influence their parents’ purchasing decisions, as reflected in the survey finding that 9.7% of parents admit their child influences 100% of what they buy for back to school, up from 7.6% of parents last year and the highest in the survey’s history.

Compared to the average adult, men will reach spend more for their children’s school needs, on average $754.30 on school items, up 12% from last year. Women will spend an average of $588.80, down $11 from $599.30 last year.

Americans increasingly have taken to using their mobile devices to shop. The survey found 36.7% of smartphone owners shopping for school items research products on their smartphones and tablets, up from 34.7% last year and the highest since the foundation started asking in 2011.

School shoppers who own tablets will use them more to shop this summer; 31.4% will purchase school items via their tablet, up from 29.9% last year, and 45% will research products, up from 41.8% last year. More specifically, 37.4% will research products, and 27% will use their tablet to buy items.

On the purchase of electronic items and computer-related equipment, college students and their parents plan to spend an average of $243.79 on laptops, desktop computers, netbooks, tablets, smartphones and more, up 20% over $203.28 last year and the highest since 2009. Graduate students will spend the most on electronics, $275.24. After cutting back last year, spending on school supplies is expected to increase 19% to $74.80 on average.

For 77.2% of college students and their families, the economy is a factor that contibutes to how, when, where and why they shop for college items. Although the findings are much lower than previous years when nearly 85% said the economy would affect their spending plans, families today are still making adjustments.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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