Thursday, July 17, 2014

Back-to-School Spending To Rise This Year

Families will spend slightly more on back-to-school items in 2014 than last year, according to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2014 Back-to-School Survey released on Thursday.   

NRF attributes the increase in spending, in large part, to college students' demand for electronic items and K-12 school districts’ growing requests for classroom supply contributions.  

Spending on school supplies will increase 12% to an average of $101.18, compared to $90.49 last year.  Additionally, shoppers will spend an average of $231.30 on clothes, up from $230.85, and $124.46 on shoes, up from $114.39 in 2013. 

Since 2009 NRF has been asking school shoppers about how the U.S. economy will impact their spending plans, and while it’s evident the impact has lessened, eight in 10 (81.1%) Americans this year are still affected, up slightly from 80.5% last year. Specifically, more families will buy store brand/generic items for school (34% vs. 32.8% last year), 25.6 percent will make do with last year’s items, up from 23.7 percent last year, and 19.6 percent will shop online more often to save money, up from 18.5 percent last year and the highest percent seen.

K-12 Back-to-School Shoppers

The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from $634.78 last year. Total spending on back to school will drop slightly to $26.5 billion as the survey found there are slightly fewer students in households this summer.

NRF broke out spending by grade, and according to the survey, families with high school students will spend the most. The survey found the average family shopping for high school students will spend $682.99, while spending on middle school/junior high comes in a close second at $682.13. Parents with elementary school-age children will spend an average of $580.94.

“Slow improvements in the economy may have contributed to the growth in confidence among back-to-school shoppers, and while we are encouraged by the overall tone of the results and expect to see continued improvement in consumer spending through the year, we know Americans are still grappling with their purchase decisions every day,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. 

“Throughout the history of this survey, spending has fluctuated based on family needs each year, and this summer, we expect parents to continue to use caution, but also make smart decisions for their family budget that is a good balance between what their children ‘want’ and what they actually need,”  Shay said.

Back-to-College Shoppers

Having a longer list of items to buy that are also commonly known to be pricier than their younger counterpart, college students and their families are the real “golden geese” to retailers when it comes to school shopping.  

NRF’s 2014 Back-to-College Survey found the average college student and their family will spend $916.48 on dorm furniture, school supplies, electronics and more, up 10 percent from $836.83 last year. Total college spending is expected to reach $48.4 billion.

When it comes to purchases of electronic items and computer-related equipment, college students and their parents plan to spend an average of $243.79 on laptops, desktop computers, netbooks, tablets, smartphones and more, up 20 percent over last year’s $203.28 and the highest amount since 2009. 

Graduate students will spend the most on electronics ($275.24). After cutting back last year, spending on school supplies is expected to increase 19 percent to $74.80 on average.

Likely driven by fashion-forward millennials hoping to head to college in style, parents and their students will spend 13 percent more on apparel ($138.73 vs. $122.70 last year). Others will spend on food items ($103.87 vs. $104.44 last year), shoes ($77.60 vs. $65.60), personal care items ($78.08 vs. $65.08), and gift cards ($55.56 vs. $65.12.)

Overall, broken out by grade, freshmen and their families will spend the most at an average of $908.69, followed by graduate students ($856.29), juniors ($791.08), sophomores ($670.89) and seniors ($567.52).