The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced results from its annual Consumer Intentions and Actions Back-to-School survey this week. From July 3 through July 10, BIGresearch polled 8,290 consumers in families with school-aged children. Researchers predict each family will spend $563.49 on back-to-school merchandise, up 6.9% from last year's average of $527.08, for a total of $18.4 billion.
Researchers expect the electronics category to gain the largest increase in sales this year, with families spending 13% more than last year, for an average of $129.24 compared to last year's $114.38.
"Electronics have evolved from luxuries to necessities, not only for college students but also for their younger siblings," NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin said in a prepared statement. "While some students may be pleading with mom and dad for an iPod or a cell phone, parents are also investing in desktop or laptop computers, educational software, and printers to support their children's learning."
About 21% of parents plan to shop for back-to-school items online, compared with 15.2% last year. Parents between the ages of 18-34 are the most likely to shop online for their children, according to the NRF. Almost one-third of parents in that age group plan to search for back-to-school items on the Web.
The NRF said discounters will remain the most popular destination, but fewer consumers plan to hit mass merchants this year. Almost 68% will shop at discount stores, compared with 72% last year. Consumers will shop more at office supplies stores, drug stores, department stores, and specialty stores this year, according to the report.
Footwear is expected to experience a higher-than-average sales increase, up 10.3% over last year, with families spending $108.42, as opposed to the $98.34 they spent last year. School supply spending will rise to $94.02, up from $86.22 last year, according to the NRF.
Pre-teens will spend about $15.38 of their own money, and teenagers will spend about $31.19, while nearly two-thirds will influence at least half of the items parents purchase, according to the survey results.
"Pre-teens and teenagers have a tremendous impact on their family's spending decisions," Phil Rist, VP of Strategy for BIGresearch, said in a prepared statement. "From backpacks to boots, parents often let their children choose which specific items to purchase, so retailers will be marketing as much to kids as to their parents this year."
About 45% of consumers plan to begin their shopping three or four weeks before school starts, while 32% will begin one to two weeks before school begins, and about 15% will begin at least two months before the start of school. About 5% will wait until the last week before school, and almost 3% won't shop until after school starts.