Families Spending Less on Back-to-School Purchases, Retail Group Says

(The Baltimore Sun/TNS) -

Another survey on back-to-school shopping is out — this time showing that parents plan to trim spending this year compared to last.

The average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630 on electronics, apparel and other school needs, down from $669 last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Total spending is expected to reach $24.9 billion. The category is growing — families have spent 42 percent more on back-to-school items over the past decade.

When you include those costly college students along with K-12, overall spending balloons to $68 billion, NRF says.

The survey came out a day after the International Council of Shopping Centers said a survey it conducted showed that nearly 70 percent of back-to-school-shoppers expect to spend more this year, up from the half of shoppers with such plans last year.

The NRF said that even with the slight decrease in spending it expects per family, consumers say they feel confident about the economy. About three quarters plan to change spending habits because of economic concerns, and that’s the lowest share in seven years.

“As seen over the last 13 years, spending on ‘back to school’ has consistently fluctuated based on children’s needs each year, and it’s unlikely most families would need to restock and replenish apparel, electronics and supplies every year,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Heading into the second half of the year, we are optimistic that economic growth and consumer spending will improve after a shaky first half of the year.”

Some consumers said they plan to start shopping for school at least two months before classes start to spread out their budgets or to avoid crowds. More than three quarters of shoppers say their kids influence a quarter or more of their purchases.