Bookbags, Footwear Vulnerable In Back-To-School Cutbacks

backpack and sneakerA new study from NPD Group finds that when it comes to back-to-school spending, consumer cutbacks will make just about every type of retailer work harder to get cash registers ringing. "The most vulnerable channels of distribution are the apparel and footwear stores," the report says. But even discounters will lose share of shoppers, with more competition coming from 'non-traditional' rivals like office supply stores.

While about 81% say they plan to shop at discount stores, for example, that's down from 84% last year. Only 16% will shop at apparel stores--down from 20% last year--and only 22% will visit a shoe store, down from 27% last year. In fact, only two channels registered an increase: 45% of shoppers say they will visit an office-supply store, compared with 43% last year, and 12% will go to a warehouse club, up from 11% last year.



Overall, 35% of back-to-school shoppers say they are planning to spend less this year, compared with 25% last year. And they intend to cut back in just about every product category, with the biggest drops in school bags and footwear.

In a separate report on consumer spending, NPD says consumers continue to re-evaluate their purchases in light of the slowed economy and rising prices. In its July FastCheck survey, 34% of consumers said they would not change their spending behavior, down from 42% in April. "This eight-point drop represents billions of dollars in sales that are not being injected into the normal shopping sectors for consumers," the report says.

Still, NPD points out that because most consumers aren't worried about losing their jobs, consumer spending should hold up. (About 34% say they are worried about job loss, a number that has held steady.) That "most directly reflects the state of the spending psyche of consumers," it says. "As long as they feel comfortable about their continued employment, they will continue to spend."

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