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Back-to-school/college spending shows slight year-over-year improvement


Families this summer will spend slightly more on back-to-school items than they did in 2013. According to NRF’s 2014 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5% from $634.78 in 2013.

NRF broke out spending by grade, and according to the survey, families with high school students will spend the most. The survey found the average family shopping for high school students will spend $682.99, while spending on middle school/junior high comes in a close second at $682.13. Parents with elementary school-age children will spend an average of $580.94.

Total spending on back to school will drop slightly to $26.5 billion as the survey found there are slightly fewer students in households this summer.

Overall, every category will see an increase in spending, including healthy increases in average spend on supplies and electronics. According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers will spend an average $212.35 on electronic items, up 7% from $199.05 in 2013, with total spend expected to reach $8.4 billion. High school students and their families specifically will spend an average $229.88 on electronic items.

Perhaps due to school districts’ growing requests for classroom supply contributions, spending on school supplies will increase 12% to an average of $101.18, compared to $90.49 in 2013. In addition, shoppers will spend an average of $231.30 on clothes, up from $230.85, and $124.46 on shoes, up from $114.39 in 2013.

The survey found 53.8% of back-to-school shoppers will shop a clothing store, up from 51.5% last year and a survey high; 27.5% will shop at electronics stores, up from 25.9% last year and another survey high. Six-in-10 (64.4%) will visit discount stores, 59.1% will shop at their favorite department store, 42% will shop at office supply stores, 38.2% will shop online, and 20.5% will shop at drug stores.

The survey also found 36.7% of smartphone owners shopping for school items will research products using their mobile device, up from 34.7% last year and the highest since NRF started asking in 2011; one-in-five (21.8%) will make a purchase via their smartphone, up from 18.2% last year and another survey high. And while many will simply shop online directly through their smartphone, one-quarter (25.1%) will use their device to find information about a physical store.

School shoppers that own tablets will also use their device 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.

In addition, NRF’s 2014 Back-to-College Survey found the average college student and their family will spend $916.48 on dorm furniture, school supplies, electronics and more, up 10% from $836.83 in 2013. Total college spending is expected to reach $48.4 billion. Combined college and school spending is expected to reach $74.9 billion.

When it comes to mobile usage, nearly six-in-10 (57.8%) will use their smartphone in some fashion as they shop for college items. Of those with smartphones, the survey found one-third (33.8%) will research products, the highest since NRF added mobile shopping questions to its survey in 2011. Additionally, one-in-five (22.4%) will purchase items, up from 19.1% last year and another survey high, and 29.8% will look up retailer information, up from 20.9% in 2013. More than half (54.5%) of tablet owners will use their tablet to shop for college items. Specifically, 37.4% will research products, and 27% will use their tablet to purchase items.

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