NRF: Back-To-School Spending To Rise

Retailers looking for a rebound from sluggish first half retail sales may have a glimmer of hope with back-to-school, should a forecast for the shopping season from the National Retail Federation prove accurate.

According to the annual NRF survey, total spending for K-12 and college is expected to reach $75.8 billion, up from $68 billion in 2015. In addition, consumers also continue to shift their buying patterns at retail as fewer consumers said they will shop discount chains for their back-to-school needs and turn more to e-commerce outlets.

“Families are still looking for bargains, but there are signs that they are less worried about the economy than in the past,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of NRF. “Heading into the second half of the year, we are optimistic that overall economic growth and consumer spending will continue to improve as they did in the first two quarters of the year.”

The NRF survey found that families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend an average $673.57 on apparel and accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies, up from last year’s $630.36. K-12 parents said they would spend an average $235.39 on clothing, $204.06 on electronics, $126.35 on shoes and $107.76 on school supplies.

While discount stores continue to be the choice of the largest share of shoppers at 61%, that number is at its lowest level in the survey’s history. Online continues to grow with 46% saying they will turn to e-commerce for their needs, up from 36% in 2015. The vast majority of online shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping (89%) and conveniences such as buy online or pick up in store (54%).

Unlike spending for K-12 students, average spending for back-to-college is expected to see a slight decline. According to the survey, those with college-age students said they plan to spend an average of $888.71, down slightly from $899.18 in 2015. However total spending for dorm room costs is expected to rise to $48.5 billion, up from $43.1 billion in 2015, due to an increase in the number of consumers shopping for back-to-college.

Spending on electronics will average $211.33, apparel and accessories $137.29, dorm furnishings $114.21, food $105.88, personal care items $78.03, shoes $70.39, school supplies $64.64, gift cards $57.54 and branded gear $49.41.

Discount stores still account for the largest share of college shopping, visited by 44% of consumers, but the number is at its lowest level in the survey’s history. Only 34% will visit a college bookstore, also a new low. Online shopping is the choice of 38% of shoppers, down from 39% last year and a peak of 45% two years ago.

The survey of 6,809 consumers asked about both back-to-school and back-to-college plans and was conducted June 30 to July 6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2% points.