The National Retail Federation's 2008 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, polled more than 8,300 families and found that 46.4% plan to start shopping at least three weeks before school opens, up from 45.2% in 2007.
And a survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers, with a sample of more than 1,000 households, reports that 78.5% expect to wrap it all up in July and August, compared to 72.7% in 2007, or 69.5% in 2006.
The NRF survey predicts that the average family with school-age children will spend $594.24 on back-to-school purchases, compared to $563.49 last year--with total back-to-school spending for kindergarten through 12th grade estimated at $20.1 billion. And the ICSC is looking for family expenditures of just over $400, with 38% saying they plan to spend more than last year and 15% reporting they will spend less.
The NRF, which says 20% of parents have set aside a portion of their stimulus check for back-to-school purchases, says purse strings will be loosest in the electronics aisle, with average spending of $151.61 there, up from $129.24 last year.
But a surprisingly weak spot is the college market, with teens saying they will cut back on spending by 7% this year to $599.38 per person this year, compared to $641.56 per person last year, for a total of $31.26 billion. While electronics will still get the largest portion of their budget, spending will drop to $211.89 per person from $258.43 last year. Spending on clothing and dorm furnishings will also slip, and only one category--school supplies--will increase.
The survey also found that more students are cutting costs by living at home, with 54.1% of college students commuting to campus from their parents' houses this year, up from 49.7% last year.