For Back-To-School, Parents To Spend More On Clothes, Less On Electronics

The National Retail Federation says that it expects back-to-school spending to reach near-record levels this year, even as parents dial back on electronic purchases. It expects total expenditures, for kindergartners through college students, to hit $82.8 billion. 

Families with kids in K through 12 are expected to fork over $685 each, down a bit from last year’s $688, to total $27.5 billion. And those with kids in college are likely to spend $55.3 billion, a record, although per-family outlays are expected to slip to $942, down from last year’s $970.

The annual report, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, says clothing will take up the biggest chunk of the K-through-12 budgets, at $237, while average outlays on electronics slip to $187. (That’s reversed for college kids, expected to spend $229 on electronics, and just $153 on clothes.)



“Items like laptops, tablets and smartphones are now an everyday part of household life and aren’t necessarily a purchase parents save for the start of the school year,” says Mark Mathews, the NRF’s vice president for research, “resulting in the slight decrease in spending for this category.” 

The survey, based on some 7,300 consumers, finds that 57% of those polled plan to shop at a department store, 55% at an online retailer, 52% at a discount store, and 51% on a clothing store.

The scuffle for back-to-school bucks keeps getting harder to follow, as more consumers spread their shopping out over more extended periods and across more channels and events, including Amazon Prime Day.

JC Penney, still CEO-less, is one retailer jumping in early on the BTS marketing fray. The company says it is “remixing” Arizona, its leading private-label brand, adding more Gen Z-trendy looks and social channels to share them. And it’s tapped Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight, popular teen influencers, as brand ambassadors.

The rebranding includes an invitation to kids to upload their fashion pics using an #AZYouAre hashtag on dedicated Instagram and YouTube, with a new mobile-first landing page for the brand. 

It’s linking the launch to its support of the YMCA, which it says helps answer Gen Z’s demand for meaningful content. For each Instagram post, the Plano, Tex.-based chain says it will donate $1 to the Y, and starting Aug. 1, it plans to introduce a social-content series, highlighting real-life stories of what teens have gotten from their involvement with the Y.

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