Back-to-school season is getting into full swing, and it could be a record year. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), American families are expected to spend more than ever on everything from apparel and accessories to electronics and supplies in the 2019 back-to-school shopping period.
Today, the trade association, along with data firm Prosper Insights and Analytics, released its annual back-to-school survey, finding that parents with children in elementary through high school plan to shell out an average of $696.70 — up from $684.79 last year. That tops the previous record of $687.72 set two years ago.
Similarly, families with college students will allocate an average of $976.78 — higher than 2018’s $942.17 and well above 2017’s record of $969.88.
“Consumers are in a strong position given the nation’s growing economy, and we see this reflected in what they say they will spend on back-to-class items this year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We’re expecting record spending, and retailers are ready to provide students with all the items they need for a successful school year.”
Despite the gain in per-household spending, the firm noted a decline in total spending — from $82.8 billion last year to $80.7 billion in 2019 — largely due to the number of families with children in the K-12 grades and fewer respondents saying they would be attending college.
Among the participating shoppers, teenagers are predicted to take a more proactive approach during this back-to-school season, forking over about $36.71 of their own money versus the $30.88 they spent a decade ago. Pre-teens will put $26.40 toward school expenses — more than 120% higher than 2009’s $11.94.
“Members of Generation Z are clearly becoming more involved with back-to-school purchasing decisions, rather than leaving the choices up to mom and dad,” Shay added.
While the NRF puts clothing and accessories at the top of K-12 families’ to-buy lists, with costs averaging $239.82, the second-biggest expense is expected to be electronics ($203.44), followed by shoes at $135.96. College shoppers, on the other hand, will put most of their dollars toward electronics ($234.69) as well as apparel and accessories at $148.54.
The majority of back-to-school shopping, the firm reports, will be done at department stores, discount stores and online, with K-12 and college shoppers (90% and 85%, respectively) planning to take advantage of free shipping.
The report coincides with e-commerce behemoth Amazon’s Prime Day sale. Some 59% of the NRF’s respondents say they would be shopping on Amazon for deals. Another 26% indicated that they would turn to other retailers’ online deals during the 48-hour discount extravaganza.
“Back-to-class shoppers still have the bulk of their shopping to do and are waiting to see what the best deals and promotions will be at a variety of different retailers,” said Phil Rist, EVP of strategy at Prosper Insights. He added that 89% of students still have half or more of their purchases to complete.
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