Spending Restraint Is The Back-To-School Spending Byword

According to NRF's 2011 Back-to-School survey, conducted by BIGresearch, parents this year will make children scour their closets before agreeing to buy any new jeans, pencils or backpacks. Families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $603.63 on apparel, school supplies and electronics, within a few dollars of last year's $606.40 average. Total spending on grades K-12 is expected to reach $22.8 billion. Combined K-12 and college spending will reach $68.8 billion, serving as the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.

NRF President and CEO, Matthew Shay, says "... families aren't opposed to spending on what they need, but want their children to take a good look at what they already have... retailers understand consumers are extremely focused on value... "

  • According to the survey, Americans are compensating for the economy by:
  • Purchasing more store-brand or generic items (39.9%)
  • Comparison shopping more online (29.8%)
  • Shopping for sales (50.0%)

Nearly half of survey respondents said the economy is forcing them to simply spend less in general (43.7%). Average spending on clothing ($220.60) and school supplies ($88.99) will slightly decrease this year. Families will also spend an average of $104.53 on shoes, a slight increase over last year.
Though average spending on computers, cell phones, mp3 players and tablet devices is expected to increase slightly to $189.51, 51.9% of families with school-aged children plan to purchase electronics this year, down from last year's historically-high 63.7 percent. The percent of people who plan to purchase apparel, shoes and supplies will decrease as well.

Department stores are expected to see a surge in back-to-school traffic thanks to popular private labels, promotions and innovative social media campaigns. According to the survey, 57.0 percent of back-to-school shoppers will head to a department store, up from 53.9 percent last year and the most in the survey's eight-year history. Back-to-school shoppers plan to make at least one purchase

  • From a discount store (68.4%)
  • Clothing stores (48.7%)
  • Office supply stores (38.0%)
  • Electronics stores (21.7%)

Additionally, more people this year will shop online (31.7% vs. 30.8% last year) and in drug stores (21.1% vs. 19.5% last year)

Parents this year will start their shopping closer to the beginning of school:

  • 42.4% of families will begin shopping three weeks to one month before school
  • 31.2% will begin their shopping one to two weeks before school starts, up from 24.8% last year
  • 21.8% will begin shopping two months before the new school year
  • 2.0% will shop the week school starts 
  • 2.6% after school starts

Teenagers are expected to spend an average of $31.64 for school items, compared to $31.74 last year. Pre-teens, largely reliant on their parents for an allowance, will spend less this year ($15.12 vs. $18.27 in 2010). When it comes to how much say children have in parents' buying decisions, 61.2% of parents say their children influence 50%or more of back-to-school purchases.

And NRF's 2011 Back-to-College survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found more college shoppers this year will make adjustments to their budgets because of the economy. According to the survey, parents and students will spend an average of $808.71 on everything from apparel and electronics to dorm furnishings and food items, down from $835.73 last year.

83.7% respondents say the economy will impact their spending plans. More shoppers than last year will purchase store brand or generic products (38.0% vs. 34.1% in 2010), and more will comparison shop online (30.7% vs. 23.2% in 2010). Additionally, many shoppers are making do with last year's items (29.7%) and spending less overall (44.6%)

Shay concludes that "College students and their parents... will be looking for ways to stretch their budgets and find good deals this year... retailers will spread out their promotions to capture the attention of shoppers whenever they're in the mood to spend, and will use every resource they can to prominently promote... "

The survey found 45.8% of students and their parents will buy electronics, the lowest level since 2005. However, electronics will still take up the largest portion of shoppers' budgets with the average person expected to spend $209.93, an 11% decrease over last year's $236.94. Freshman will spend the most on electronics at $281.94 on average.
Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director, BIGresearch, says "... many college students are already armed with the latest gadgets they'll bring with them to campus... A decline in electronics spending could be due to the fact that many popular college items, like laptops, have experienced huge drops in price... "

College bound shoppers will also spend on:

  • Clothing and accessories ($127.37)
  • Dorm furnishings ($96.84)
  • Food items ($94.60)
  • School supplies ($61.48)
  • Personal care items ($64.44)

47.6% of families with college-aged children will shop at a department store, up from 42.5% last year. Others will shop at:

  • Discount stores (53.9%)
  • Drug stores (19.4%)
  • Home furnishing or home decor stores (11.2%)
  • Office supply stores (33.4%)
  • Clothing stores (34.2%)
  • Electronics stores (19.6%)

33.4% of college families plan to shop online, up from 28.6% last year.

24.4% of college shoppers will begin their shopping at least two months before school starts, the highest percent since NRF began conducting the survey in 2003.

  • 28.9% will shop three weeks to one month before school starts
  • 27.9% one to two weeks before
  • 9.4% the week school starts
  • 9.4% after school starts

52.9% of parents say their child will live at home (vs. 51.8% in 2010), though 24.7% will live off campus at a house or apartment. 18% will live in a dorm room or college housing and 3.6% will live in a fraternity or sorority house.

The poll of 8,684 consumers was conducted from July 1-6, 2011. The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0%

For additional information, please visit here.

Next story loading loading..