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Spending to increase on computers, desks as students go back to school – virtually 

school supplies

More consumers expect at least some classes to take place online than a month ago and are buying items to be ready.

An update the annual back-to-class survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics in early August found that 63% of consumers expect at least some school and college classes will take place online this year, up from 55% when the original survey was conduced in early July. Of those, 76% plan to make purchases specifically because of online learning, up from 72%. 

While the number planning to buy laptops is essentially unchanged at 37% rather than 36%, the number buying accessories such as a mouse or flash drive is up at 26% percent from 21% and the number expecting to buy desks or chairs to furnish home classrooms rose from 17% to 23%.

The survey found 34% expect to spend more than they thought in July, and 54% said that’s because they plan to spend more on electronics and computer equipment. But with growing children needing new clothes whether they are at school or at home and many supplies needed either way, 47% said they are spending more on clothing and 59% said the higher spending would come in the form of school supplies such as pencils and notebooks.  

“Consumers still face a great deal of uncertainty even as school begins to start and are further behind in their back-to-school spending than they have been in years,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “At this point, the majority of families expect to spend as much as they thought earlier this summer if not more, and it’s largely because of the need to spend more on electronics.”

K-12 shoppers had completed only 41% of their buying on average, down from 54% at the same time last year and the lowest level since 40%  in 2012. College shoppers had completed 50%, down from 52% each of the past two years but higher than the 48% average over the past dozen years.

The update did not ask the actual amount consumers expect to spend. As of July, shoppers with children in kindergarten through high school said they planned to spend an average $789.49 per family for a total of $33.9 billion while those with college students planned to spend an average $1,059.20 per family, or $67.7 billion total.


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