Back-to-School Spending Grows: NRF

This article contains excerpts from a press release published on the National Retail Federation (NRF) website entitled “Back-to-School Spending Grows as Parents Restock, Replenish Children’s Needs.” [Read the full press release.]


July 30, 2012 | The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2012 Back-to-School spending survey, conducted by BIGinsight, reveals that the average American with children in grades K-12 will spend $688.62 on their children, up from $603.63 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $30.3 billion. Combined, K-12 and college spending will reach $83.8 billion, making the back-to-school shopping season second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.

NRF attributes the jump to more children entering elementary and middle school this fall and parents hitting the stores to replace and replenish what kids had to “make-do” with last year, when families cut back on spending.

“When it comes to their children, there’s nothing more important to a parent than making sure their children have everything they need, even in a tough economy – and especially when it comes to back-to-school shopping,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Backpacks rip, pencils break, and children grow, there’s no way around it, but as they begin tackling their shopping lists, parents will make sure to spend smarter than they ever have before. We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with their promotions both in-store and online, keeping an eye on inventory levels as families look to spread out their shopping throughout the entire summer.”

Parents are expected to spend the most on clothing, accessories and electronics this summer, spending an estimated average of $246.10 on clothes and $217.88 on electronics. Nearly 60% will invest in some sort of electronic device, a sharp increase from the 51.9% who planned to do so last year. Additionally, the average person with children in grades K-12 will spend $129.20 on shoes and $95.44 on school supplies such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks.

After several years of uncertainty the NRF reports that the economy is still impacting how Americans shop. This year, 84.8% of consumers say the economy will impact their spending plans in some way, with more people planning to shop for sales more often (51.1% vs. 50% last year) and cut back on their children’s extracurricular activities (11% vs. 10.2% last year.) Savvy shoppers looking to save some money will shop online more often (17.9% vs. 15.3% last year) and comparison shop online (32.1% vs. 29.8% last year.)

In 2012, more families say they will shop at department stores and online for school items as they look to get the best bang for their buck. Nearly 60% will take advantage of department stores’ private label offerings and exclusive product lines, up from 57% last year and the highest in the survey’s 10-year history.  Parents will also scour the Internet for free-shipping and other promotions. Nearly 40% will take their school shopping lists online, up from 31.7% last year and nearly doubling since 2007 when 21.4% planned to shop online.

Discount stores will be the most popular shopping destination, however, with 67.1% planning to shop there for school items. Clothing stores (52%), office supplies stores (42%), drug stores (22.7%) and thrift stores (14.4%) will also see their share of back-to-school shoppers. Electronic stores, popular with families looking to invest in smartphones, tablets and MP3 players for their children, will see a bump in traffic this year (26.3% vs. 21.7% last year.)

Hoping to spread out their spending, nearly half (47.8%) are planning to begin shopping three weeks to one month before the school bell rings, up from 42.4% last year, and 22.3% have likely already made a dent in their shopping list, saying they would shop at least two months before school starts, up from 21.8% last year. Another quarter (25%) of Americans will start shopping one to two weeks before school, and 2.7% will wait until school starts. With some people having less to shop for and hoping to stock up on clearance items, 3.2% will shop after school starts, up from 2.6% last year.

[Read the full press release]

About the Survey

NRF’s 2012 Back-to-School and Back-to-College spending surveys were designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to back-to-school spending and back-to-college spending. The surveys were conducted for NRF by BIGinsight. The poll of 8,509 consumers was conducted from July 2- 9, 2012. The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGinsight delivers executives timely, consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive resource of information, BIGinsight represents the voice of the consumer and provides knowledge to marketers regarding consumer views on the economy, personal finance, retail, lifestyle, media and domestic and world issues. www.BIGinsight.com