Back-to-School and College Spending to Reach $82.8 Billion

The back-to-school and college shopping season is in full swing, but
many parents and college students say they are waiting for the best
deals to complete their shopping lists, according to the annual
survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper
Insights and Analytics. Total spending for K-12 schools and college
combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion, nearly as high as last
year’s $83.6 billion.

“With the economy thriving thanks to tax reform and growing consumer
confidence, we expect to see a very strong season,” NRF President and
CEO Matthew Shay said. “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. Whether shoppers buy now or wait until the last minute,
retailers are ready with everything they need for a successful start of
the school year.”

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

Those with young people 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. That’s an all-time high in the history of the survey, up from
last year’s previous record of $54.1 billion.

According to the survey,
back-to-school shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing ($236.90). In
addition to apparel, back-to-school shoppers also plan to spend:

“The biggest change we are seeing in back-to-school spending this year
is coming from electronics,” NRF Vice President for Research Mark
Mathews said. “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.”

Unlike back-to-schoolers, college shoppers will spend the most on
electronics ($229.21). Besides electronics, they also plan to spend:

“College shoppers are prioritizing and increasing their spending budgets
in essential categories including clothing, furnishings and shoes,”
Mathews said. “However, categories such as personal care items, gift
cards and food saw a dip this year. Although consumers will still spend
on these categories, they may plan to make purchases as needed
throughout the school year rather than stocking up for the entire

The top destinations for consumers shopping for back-to-school items are:

Similarly, the most popular shopping destinations for back-to-college
consumers are:

The survey also found that more consumers are starting early. Most
back-to-school shoppers (77 percent) plan to start at least three weeks
before school begins, up from last year’s 74 percent and 64 percent a
decade ago. Moreover, 67 percent of college shoppers will start that
early, the same as last year but up from 51 percent in 2008. However,
there is still plenty of shopping left to do. Nearly nine out of 10 (89
percent) back-to-school and college shoppers still have half or more of
their purchases left to complete. Of these, more than half are still
waiting for the best deals for the items on their lists.

“One trend that we continue to see during the back-to-school season is
the strong influence children have on their parents’ spending
decisions,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil
Rist said. “This shouldn’t come as a surprise when social media tools
such as Pinterest and Instagram have allowed Gen Zers to be more
selective in the items they want. However, the payback for being picky
is that parents now expect their kids to contribute toward their
back-to-school lists.”

The survey found teenagers will spend $35.60 of their own money on
average for back-to-school while pre-teens will spend $25.06.

The survey of 7,320 consumers asked about both back-to-school and
back-to-college plans and was conducted June 29-July 8 and has a margin
of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

About Prosper Insights & Analytics

Prosper Insights & Analytics is a global leader in consumer intent data
serving the financial services, marketing technology, and retail
industries. We provide global authoritative market information on U.S.
and China consumers via curated insights and analytics. By integrating a
variety of data including economic, behavioral and attitudinal data,
Prosper helps companies accurately predict consumers’ future behavior to
help identify market behaviors, optimize marketing efforts, and improve
the effectiveness of demand generation campaigns.

About NRF

The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade
association. Based in Washington, D.C., NRF represents discount and
department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street
merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet
retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is
the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four
U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to
annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.

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