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NRF: Consumers To Spend Slightly Less During Back-To-School

Consumer spending for the back-to-school/college shopping season is expected to be slightly less than 2017, according to an annual survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The survey of 7,320 consumers conducted from June 29 to July 8 revealed that total spending on items for students grades K-12 and those heading to college is projected to reach $82.8 billion, slightly lower than last year’s total of $83.6 billion.

“With the economy thriving thanks to tax reform and growing consumer confidence, we expect to see a very strong season,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “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.”

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $684.79 each, compared with last year’s $687.72 for a total 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.

Those with students heading to college as well as college and graduate students purchasing for themselves plan to spend an average $942.17 each, down from last year’s $969.88 for a total of $55.3 billion.

According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing; electronics such as computers, calculators or phones; shoes; and on 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,” said Mark Mathews, NRF vp/research. “Items like laptops, tablets and smartphones are now an everyday part of household life and aren’t necessarily a purchase parents save for the start of the school year, resulting in the slight decrease in spending for this category.”

College shoppers are expected to spend the greatest amount on electronics, clothing and accessories, dorm or apartment furnishings, food and shoes.

“College shoppers are prioritizing and increasing their spending budgets in essential categories including clothing, furnishings and shoes,” Mathews said.

The top destinations for consumers shopping for back-to-school items are department stores, online retailers, discount stores, clothing stores and office supply stores. Similarly, the most popular shopping destinations for back-to-college consumers are online retailers, department stores, discount stores, office supply stores and college bookstores.