Bloomberg News

Back-to-School Sales to Gain Most Since 2003, NRF Says

July 19, 2012

Back-to-school spending in the U.S. is poised to increase the most since 2003 as shoppers replace apparel and electronics that their kids had to “make-do” with last year, according to a survey.

The average person with students in kindergarten through 12th grade plans to spend $688.62 on clothing and supplies, jumping 14 percent from $603.63 a year earlier, the National Retail Federation said in a statement. The NRF cited a survey of 8,509 consumers conducted by BIGinsight on July 2 to July 9.

While pent-up demand and increased enrollment will drive sales, 85 percent of consumers with school-aged kids said the economy will still affect their spending this season, as the unemployment rate lingers above 8 percent and consumer confidence dropped in July to the lowest level this year.

“People don’t look at back-to-school shopping as a discretionary expenditure,” Matthew Shay, chief executive officer of the Washington-based NRF, said in a telephone interview. “A significant number of consumers indicated that they couldn’t hold off on these purchases any longer.”

Total spending for all students, including those in college, is expected to rise to $83.8 billion from $68.8 billion a year earlier, Kathy Grannis, an NRF spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. College students and their families may spend an average $907.22, up from $808.71 last year.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Retailing Index (S5RETL) has risen 17 percent this year through yesterday.

Discounters Benefit

Still spooked by a recovering economy, 67.1 percent of consumers plan to shop at discount stores for school apparel and accessories. Same-store sales for such discounters as TJX Cos. (TJX:US), which owns T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, topped analysts’ expectations in June, boosted by consumers looking for deals.

Retailers will ramp up promotional savings as consumers plan to scour department stores and the Internet for the best deals, Shay said. Nearly 40 percent of consumers plan to take their shopping lists online, up from 32 percent a year earlier.

“The budget-conscious consumer has not forgotten about price, quality or value,” Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director at BIGinsight, said in a statement. “We’re merely seeing a more savvy shopper.”

Electronics retailers may also see an increase in traffic during the back-to-school season as compared to last year, with 60 percent of respondents saying they’re looking to invest in smartphones, tablets and other devices after putting off these purchases in past years.

Shopping Earlier

Consumers are beginning back-to-school shopping earlier this year, as parents hope to spread out their spending, the report said. Retailers are racing to snatch up these early spenders.

Target Corp. (TGT:US) has already began advertising “smart deals for back to college” on the top of its website that links to a checklist and array of college essentials for browsers to buy. Macy’s Inc. (M:US) also has posted a “college lifestyle” section on the homepage of its website.

Office Depot Inc. (ODP:US) offers free shipping on its website for orders of $50 or more and breaks down the “back to school” section of its website by grade category.

“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,” Shay said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Blessing in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at

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Companies Mentioned

  • TJX
    (TJX Cos Inc/The)
    • $66.08 USD
    • -1.00
    • -1.51%
  • TGT
    (Target Corp)
    • $73.95 USD
    • -0.69
    • -0.93%
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