On the heels of historically high back-to-school sales in 2012, the National Retail Federation is predicting that parents will spend less than last year, with combined back-to-school and back-to-college sales expected to reach $72.5 billion.
According to the NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, parents have a shorter shopping list this year with an array of school supplies from last year that will still suffice.
Families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year, with the total expected to reach $26.7 billion.
College students and their families will spend an average of $836.83, down from $907.22 last year, for a total of $45.8 billion.
“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind. Having splurged on their growing children’s needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season,” says Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer, NRF. “As they continue to grapple with the impact of increased payroll taxes, Americans will look to cut corners where they can, but will buy what their kids need. It’s important to note, however, that spending levels are still well above where they were a few years ago.”
The biggest portion of back-to-school shoppers’ budgets will go toward new apparel and accessories: 95.3 percent of those with school-age children will spend an average of $230.85 on fall sweaters, denim and other pieces of attire. Additionally, families will spend on shoes ($114.39) and school supplies ($90.49).
According to the survey, families are already out and about shopping for school items: 23.9 percent of families with children in grades K-12 say they will begin shopping at least two months before school (i.e. right now), up from 22.3 percent last year and the highest percentage seen in the survey’s 11-year history. Half (49 percent) will shop three weeks to one month before school, 21.8 percent will shop one to two weeks before school, 2.8 percent will shop the week school starts and 2.6 percent will shop after the start of the season.
“We continue to see a shift in shopping patterns during big spending events, where consumers typically head out early to take advantage of fresh inventory options and initial markdowns, then see a lull only to rev back up again when final sales appear,” says Pam Goodfellow, director, Prosper Consumer Insights. “Hoping to spread out their budgets but still reap the benefits of getting the products their children want, parents this back-to-school season will comparison shop online and around town at their child’s favorite stores, potentially even more than once, as they seek to find bargains and products that offer the best value.”