The back-to-school and college retail sales are expected to be strong this year, but many parents and college students are waiting for the best deals, according to National Retail Federation.
NRF and the Prosper Insights and Analytics consumer trends research firm say total spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion, nearly as high as last year’s $83.6 billion.
“With the economy thriving thanks to tax reform and growing consumer confidence, we expect to see a very strong season,” says NRF President Matthew Shay.
“College spending is expected to be at its highest level ever, and back-to-school will be one of the three highest years on record. Whether shoppers buy now or wait until the last minute, retailers are ready with everything they need for a successful start of the school year.”
Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of about $685 each, compared with last year’s $688 to create total forecasted sales of $27.5 billion.
That’s the third-highest total in the history of the survey following a peak of $30.3 billion in 2012 and last year’s $29.5 billion, NRF says.
Those buying for college students – as well as undergraduate and graduate students who shop for themselves – say they plan to spend an average $942 each, down from last year’s $970, for a total of $55.3 billion.
That total is an all-time high, the federation reports, up from last year’s previous record of $54.1 billion.
According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing – $237. Shoppers also plan to spend $187 on electronics such as computers, calculators or phones; $139 on shoes; and $122.13 on classroom supplies such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes
“The biggest change we are seeing in back-to-school spending this year is coming from electronics,” says NRF vice president for research Mark Mathews.
He points out that laptops, tablets and smartphones are now such an everyday purchase instead of being saved for the start of the school year, which is why a slight decrease in sales is being predicted for this category.
With the growth of ecommerce, the top destinations for shopping are department stores (57%), online retailers (55%), discount stores (52%), clothing stores (51%) and office supply stores (35%).
Consumers Shop Earlier
More consumers are starting to buy earlier. A whopping 77% of back-to-school shoppers plan to start at least three weeks before school begins, up from last year’s 74% and 64% a decade ago.
However, there is still plenty of shopping left to do, the NRF reported July 12. Nearly nine out of 10 (89%) of back-to-school and college shoppers still have half or more of their purchases left to complete. Of these, more than half are still waiting for the best deals for the items on their lists.
“One trend that we continue to see during the back-to-school season is the strong influence children have on their parents’ spending decisions,” observes Phil Rist, Prosper Insights’ executive vice president of strategy.
“This shouldn’t come as a surprise when social media tools such as Pinterest and Instagram have allowed GenZers to be more selective in the items they want. However, the payback for being picky is that parents now expect their kids to contribute toward their back-to-school lists.”