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School Retail Sales Will Be Strong

Total retail sales for school and college are projected to reach $83.6 billion, an increase of more than 10% from last year’s total of $75.8 billion, according to National Retail Federation projections.

NRF says back-to-college spending is expected to hit an all-time high this year, while it also estimates that the rest of back-to-school spending will see its second-highest spending level on record.

“Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy,” says NRF President Matthew Shay. “With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year.”

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $688 each, for a total of $29.5 billion, an 8% increase from last year’s $27 billion. Total spending is the second-highest in the history of the survey following a peak of $30 billion in 2012.

The NRF survey of consumers finds back-to-school shoppers plan to spend $10 billion on clothing (to be purchased by 95% of respondents), $8.8 billion on electronics such as computers or calculators (60%), $5.6 billion on shoes (93%) and $4.9 billion on school supplies, such as notebooks, folders, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes (97%).

Parents say they will spend an average of about $239 on clothing, $204 on electronics, $130 on shoes and $114.12 on school supplies. While consumers plan to spend more across all categories, shoes and school supplies are expected to see the highest expected increase.

For the first time, the survey asked consumers what types of electronics they plan to purchase. Among electronics shoppers, 45% said they would buy a laptop computer while more than a third plan to purchase a tablet (35%) or a calculator (35%). One in four say they intend to purchase electronic accessories such as a mouse, flash drive or charger.

“Schools are changing their classroom experience to include more technology including laptops and tablets,” observes Pam Goodfellow of Prosper Insights & Analytics, conductor of the NRF survey.

College students and their families plan to spend an average of $970, up from last year’s $889. Total spending is expected to be $54.1 billion, up from $48.5 billion last year and surpassing 2012’s record of $53.5 billion.

College consumers plan to spend $12.8 billion on electronics (purchased by 51%), $8 billion on clothing (78%), $7.5 billion on snacks and other food items (75%), $5.9 billion on dorm/apartment furnishings (51%), $4.5 billion on shoes (72%), $4.5 billion on personal care items (78%), $3.9 billion on school supplies (88%), $3.9 billion on gift cards (40%) and $3.2 billion on branded collegiate gear (56%).

Households plan to spend an average of $229 on electronics, $143 on clothing, $134 on food, $106 on dorm/apartment furnishings, $81 on shoes, $81 on personal care items, $70 on school supplies, $69 on gift cards and $57 on branded gear.

For the first-time the survey asked back-to-college shoppers what types of electronics they plan to buy. About 61% said they plan to purchase a laptop, 28% a tablet, 26% electronic accessories, 24% a calculator and 21% a smartphone/cell phone.

More back-to-college buyers also plan to shop early, with 32% starting two months before school compared with 26% last year. Only 21% will leave shopping until the last week or two before school starts, down from 25% last year.

For why they are shopping early, 64% said they want to spread out their budgets, 41% don’t want to miss sales and 37% want to avoid crowds.

When it comes to where they will shop, 44% will go online, 40% in discount stores, 39% in department stores, 34% in college bookstores and 29% in office supply stores.

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