Families Plan Higher Back-to-School Spending, Retailers’ Report Says

(Chicago Tribune/MCT) -

Families expect to spend more on school items than they did last year, even though more than 80 percent say the tough economy still affects their spending decisions, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual back-to-school survey.

More than a quarter of families plan to take advantage of late-summer deals and shop one to two weeks before school starts, up from 21.8 percent who did so last year, the NRF report said. The percentage of procrastinators who wait until the first week of school or after classes start to shop is expected to grow to 7.7 percent from 5.4 percent last year.

The early birds stocking up more than two months before school starts have dropped to 22.5 percent from 23.9 percent.

Total spending for back-to-school is expected to reach $26.5 billion, down slightly from last year because there are fewer students in households, the report said. Back-to-college spending, however, is expected to grow to $48.4 billion, up from $45.8 billion last year.

Families with children in grades kindergarten through 12 plan to spend an average of $669.28 in back-to-school apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from $634.78 last year, the survey found. Electronics and basic school supplies lead the spending boost. Families with high-school students spend the most.

Families with college students plan to spend $916.48 million on dorm furniture, school supplies, electronics and more, up 10 percent from last year.

With 81.1 percent of survey respondents saying the economy will affect their spending plans, up from 80.5 percent last year, families also intend to buy more store brand or generic items and shop online to find deals and compare prices. A quarter of families said they will make do with the items they have, up from 23.7 percent who said so last year.

In an ongoing trend, teens are spending more of their own money on back-to-school shopping and kids increasingly are influencing their parents’ purchasing decisions.

Teenagers plan to spend an average of $34.40 of their own money, up from $30.13 last year, totaling $913 million.

Almost 10 percent of parents say their child influences 100 percent of the back-to-school shopping decisions, up from 7.6 percent who said so last year.