Back-to-school Supplies Heavy Spending

With students returning to class in the fall, late summer marks the beginning of back-to-school shopping for families with growing children. In an effort to make up for hesitant spending in prior years, parents will likely return to their normal purchase behavior this year as they replenish their children’s school necessities.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2012 Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by BIGinsight – a Worthington, Ohio-based subsidiary of Proper Business Development – the average person with children in grades K-12 will spend $688.62 on their children, up from $603.63 last year. Total spending for that age group is projected to reach $30.3 billion. Combined K-12 and college spending will reach $83.8 billion, serving as the second-biggest consumer spending event behind the winter holidays.

“When it comes to their children, there’s nothing more important to a parent than making sure their children have everything they need, even in a tough economy – and especially when it comes to back-to-school shopping,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with their promotions both in-store and online.”

As expected, parents will use the majority of their back-to-school budget on clothing, accessories and electronics. On average, parents will spend $246.10 on clothes, $217.88 on electronics, $129.20 on shoes, and $95.44 on other supplies such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks.

Although the economy will lessen its impact on how much Americans spend, it appears that it maintains a stronghold on the way they spend. This year, 84.8 percent of consumers with school-age children say the economy will affect their spending habits in some way, with more people planning to shop for sales (up 1.1 percent from last year), as well as cutting back on extracurricular activities (up 0.8 percent from last year). More parents will try to save cash by shopping online (up 2.6 percent) and by comparison shopping (up 4.9 percent) as well.

“The budget-conscious consumer has not forgotten about price, quality or value, we’re merely seeing a more savvy shopper,” said Pam Goodfellow, BIGinsight’s consumer insights director. “There’s no question consumers have become more practical in their shopping, and with school purchases oftentimes considered a necessity, parents have likely been saving and scrimping to be able to fully afford all of their children’s needs for the upcoming year.”

Discount retailers will certainly see a surge in consumer traffic, with 67.1 percent planning to shop back-to-school at a reduced price. Other popular shopping destinations will include clothing stores (52 percent), office supply stores (42 percent), drug stores (22.7 percent) and thrift stores (14.4 percent). Electronic stores will see a slight boost as well (up 4.6 percent from last year) as smartphones, MP3 players and tablets remain mainstays of the younger demographic.

Through its 2012 Back-to-College Spending Survey, Washington, D.C.-based NRF found similar habits for parents of college-bound students. Collegiate consumers and their families will spend an average of $907.22 on items like dorm furniture, school supplies and personal care products, up from $808.71 last year.

Many shoppers (83.5 percent) hoping to cut corners for campus living say the economy will impact their purchase behavior, and as a result 51.9 percent say they will shop at discount stores. Similar to K-12 shopping, online shopping for college (up 1.7 percent) and comparative shopping (up 3.9 percent) have increased as well.

“Some college students and their parents may be hesitant to commit to any purchase without having researched whether or not they are getting the best deal beforehand,” said Goodfellow. “This year, every retailer could be a ‘winner’ as consumers will spread out their spending, leaving no retailer unturned.”

Survey results are based on a poll of 8,509 consumers.

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