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NRF: Back-to-school spending expected to reach $30.3 billion


Washington, D.C. -- A survey released by the National Retail Federation and conducted by BIGInsight found that the average parent will spend $688.62 on back-to-school items this year, compared with $603.63 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $30.3 billion.

NRF cited an increased number of children entering elementary and middle school this fall, as well as necessary back-to-school replenishments after last year’s cutbacks, for the predicted improvements.

“When it comes to their children, there’s nothing more important to a parent than making sure their children have everything they need, even in a tough economy—and especially when it comes to back-to-school shopping,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with their promotions both in-store and online, keeping an eye on inventory levels as families look to spread out their shopping throughout the entire summer.”

Not surprising, parents will spend the most on clothing, accessories and electronics this summer. Realistic about the cost of select items and the necessities needed for the school year, parents estimate they will spend an average of $246.10 on clothes and $217.88 on electronics. Nearly six in 10 (59.6%) will invest in some sort of electronic device, a sharp increase from the 51.9% who planned to do so last year.

Additionally, the average person with children in grades K-12 will spend $129.20 on shoes and $95.44 on school supplies such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks.

Yet, the economy is still top of mind for many parents. According to the report, more people plan to shop for sales more often (51.1% versus 50.0% last year) and cut back on their children’s extracurricular activities (11.0% versus 10.2% last year.) Savvy shoppers looking to save some money will shop online more often (17.9% versus 15.3% last year) and comparison shop online (32.1% versus 29.8% last year.)

This year more families say they will shop at department stores and online for school items as they look to get the best bang for their buck. Nearly six in 10 (59.9%) will take advantage of department stores’ private label offerings and exclusive product lines, up from 57% last year and the highest in the survey’s 10-year history. Parents will also scour the Internet for free-shipping and other promotions. Nearly four in 10 (39.6%) will take their school shopping lists online, up from 31.7% last year and nearly doubling since 2007 when 21.4% planned to shop online.

Discount stores will be the most popular shopping destination, however, with 67.1% planning to shop there for school items. Clothing stores (52.0%), office supplies stores (42.0%), drug stores (22.7%) and thrift stores (14.4%) will also see their share of back-to-school shoppers. Electronic stores, popular with families looking to invest in smartphones, tablets and MP3 players for their children, will see a nice bump in traffic this year (26.3% versus 21.7% last year.)

The survey found that almost half (47.8%) of respondents are planning to begin shopping three weeks to one month before the school bell rings, up from 42.4% last year, and 22.3% have likely already made a dent in their shopping list, saying they would shop at least two months before school starts, up from 21.8% last year. Another quarter (24.0%) of Americans will start shopping one to two weeks before school, and 2.7% will wait until school starts. With some people having less to shop for and hoping to stock up on clearance items, 3.2% will shop after school starts, up from 2.6% last year.

On the college front, NRF’s 2012 Back-to-College Survey conducted by BIGinsight found college students and their families will spend an average $907.22, up from $808.71 last year. Total spending for back-to-college is expected to reach $53.5 billion. Combined K-12 and college spending will reach $83.8 billion, serving as the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.

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