Back-to-School Spending To Decline

The National Retail Federation says families will spend less outfitting their children for school this year, laying out an average of $634.78 on clothes, apparel, supplies and electronics. That’s a considerable decline from last year’s $688.62, when parents spent big after several years of recession-fueled frugality.

The Washington, D.C.-based trade group forecasts that total back-to-school spending will reach $26.7 billion. When back-to-college purchases are added in, the total is predicted to be $72.5 billion.

The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, reports that parents are being intensely practical -- comparing prices, using coupons, and making clothes and backpacks last another year. “The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind,” says NRF President/CEO Matthew Shay in its announcement. “Having splurged on their growing children’s needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season.” 



As ever, the biggest chunk of cash is earmarked for clothing, and 95.3% of the parents surveyed will spend an average $230.85 on new duds. An average of $114.39 is planned for new shoes, and $90.49 for school supplies. Of parents with kids K through 12 planning an electronics purchase (about 56% of the total), spending will dip slightly to $199.05, down from $217.88 in 2012).

That careful shopping is likely to pay off for online retailers, with 19% planning more online shopping and 37% intending to use the Internet for more comparative shopping than last year.

Families also intend to shop earlier, with 24% saying they will begin at least two months before school starts. And 49% will start one month before school begins.

Discounters will play a key role, with 67% of families doing at least some shopping here, but 62% -- the highest in the survey’s history -- say they will use department stores, up from 60% last year.

And while spending among college-age shoppers is also set to decline a bit, the survey reports these young Gen Y shoppers are more style-conscious than in the past, with families spending an average of $836.83 on apparel, electronics, and dorm furnishings and more, down from $907.22 the prior year. Total spending for back-to-college is expected to reach $45.8 billion. Among the big shifts? More kids living at home and commuting: 48% in this year’s survey, in comparison with 43% last year.

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