College Crowd Crazy For Dorm Decor

From mass brands to boutique-y niches, college-bound kids are showing a healthy hunger for dorm décor, with the National Retail Federation predicting a 30% increase in spending this back-to-school season.

But the trade group is forecasting an overall decline in spending, and says that families with college kids (and the students themselves) are likely to spend $899.18, a small decline from $916.48 last year. Total back-to-college spending, which includes clothes, electronics and even food, as well as shower shoes and mini-fridges, is projected at $43.1 billion. One reason for the decline, it says, is that purchases in the electronics category registered big increases last year. This year, the average person shopping for electronics says they are likely to spend $207, down from $244. 



But the category with the biggest changes appears to be dorm essentials, with students looking for more inventive ways to feel at home, spending a record amount on bedding, furniture, curtains and towels: $126.30, up from $96.70 last year. More than half of the college students in its survey, conducted with Prosper Insights & Analytics, say they plan to buy such furnishings. 

Driving that demand is an increase in the number of kids packing a bag this year: Some 31% of those in the survey say they intend to live in a dorm or college housing, up from 23.9% last year. And 21% say they are opting for off-campus housing. As a result, just 41.5% are staying at home, down from 46.8% last year.

Not so surprisingly, retailers are finding new and better ways to tempt dorm dwellers. Macy’s, for example, announced a new partnership with Dormify last month. Target is adding to its popular online checklists while Bed, Bath & Beyond is offering the chance to win shopping sprees. Kohl’s is stressing its omnichannel offerings, such as buy online, pick up near campus, and a list app that lets students share their picks with friends.

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