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Retailers Predict Stronger Back-to-School Sales

Volume 2, Issue 14
July 31, 2014
View/Print Entire Newsletterback to school

Driven by increased demand for electronics and parents’ need to restock school supplies from last year, families this summer will spend slightly more on back-to-school items in 2014, the National Retail Federation reported.

However, NRF noted that college student spending is the real golden goose because they have longer shopping lists of items that also tend to be pricier than items bought for younger counterparts.

NRF also revised its overall retail sales growth forecast for 2014 down from 4.1%, to 3.6% because of slower than expected sales in the first half of the year.

Combined college and school spending is expected to reach $74.9 billion. The average family with children in grades K-
12 will spend $669 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5% from $635 last year, NRF predicted.

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 said combined spending for back to school and college is expected to reach $74.9 billion.

“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,” said NRF President Matthew Shay.

Overall, every category will see an increase in spending, including healthy increases in average spend on supplies and electronics. NRF predicts, back-to-school shoppers will spend an average $212 on electronic items, up 7% from $199 last year, with total spend expected to reach $8.4 billion.

Perhaps due to school districts’ growing requests for classroom supply contributions, spending on school supplies will increase 12% to an average of $101 per student compared to $90 last year. On average $231 will be spent on clothes, up from $231, and $124 on shoes, up from $114 in 2013.

While department and discount stores will be the most visited among school shoppers, millennial students may be driving an increase in spending at specialty stores. NRF found that about 54% will shop at a clothing store, up from 52% last year, and 28% at electronics stores, up from 26% last year. Also, 64% will shop at discount stores, 59% at their favorite department store, 42% at office supply stores, 38% online, and 21% at drug stores.

Once again early-bird shoppers are expected to lead the charge for school shopping this year, but more will wait until the dog days of summer to tackle their school lists.

NRF said 25% will take advantage of late summer deals and shop one to two weeks before school, up from 22% last year; 23% will shop two months before school starts, and another 45% will shop three weeks to one month before.

The survey found that 22% of consumers will make a purchase via their smartphone, up from 18% last year, while 31% of those who own tablets will use them more to shop, up slightly from 30% last year.

College Electronics Buying Up 20%

NRF also found the average college student and their family will spend $916 on dorm furniture, school supplies, electronics and more, up 10% from $837 last year, with the total reaching $48.4 billion.

College students and their parents plan to spend an average of $244 on laptops, desktop computers, netbooks, tablets, smartphones and other items, up 20% over last year’s average of $203 and the highest amount since 2009.

Likely driven by fashion-forward millennials, NRF said parents and their students also will spend 13% more on apparel ($139 vs. $123 last year).

According to the survey, 51% will shop at discount stores, up from 48% last year, and department stores (47%), up from 43%. NRF said 4.6% will check out retailers’ websites for special promotions, up from 37% last year. Others will shop at collegiate bookstores (42%), office supply stores (36%), clothing stores (34%) and 13% said they will shop at small and local businesses.

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