Back-to-school spending expected to take dip this year

HACKENSACK, N.J. – American parents are expected to spend cautiously for back-to-school clothes and supplies and reduce their spending slightly compared with last year, according to a report released Thursday by the National Retail Federation.

The federation expects families with children in grades K-12 to spend an average of $603.63 on back-to-school purchases, down slightly from $606.40 last year. The forecast is based on a survey conducted for the federation each year by consumer research firm BIGresearch.

Parents of college students will spend an average of $808.71 this year, down from $835.73 last year, the federation said.

Total spending on K-12 and college-related school supplies and apparel is expected to reach $68.8 billion this year. The back-to-school season is the second-biggest spending opportunity for U.S. retailers, after the holiday season, and often is a good indicator of how strong holiday spending will be.

The group’s officials said back-to-school spending increased last year because it was a “replenishment” year after shoppers cut back sharply on spending in 2009. In 2009, back-to-school spending for K-12 students dropped an average of $45 per family, from $594.24 in 2008, to $548.72.

This year, National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement, “families aren’t opposed to spending on what they need, but parents want their children to take a good look around at what they already have before deciding on what to buy for back to school.”

The National Retail Federation predicts that the average family will spend slightly less on clothing and school supplies this year, but more on shoes and electronics.

Most shoppers said they will do at least some of their back-to-school spending at discount stores, but department stores also could get a boost this year, the federation said. The percentage of shoppers who said they plan to head to department stores for school purchases rose to 57 percent, the highest percentage in the eight years the federation and BIGresearch have been conducting the survey.


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