Back-to-School and College Spending to Reach $75.8 Billion

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–With back-to-school spending on a “stock up” cycle rather than a “make
do” cycle, the average family is expected to spend more freely on school
and college supplies this year, according to the National Retail
Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics.
Total spending for K-12 and college is expected to reach $75.8 billion,
up from last year’s $68 billion.

“Families are still looking for bargains, but there are signs that they
are less worried about the economy than in the past,” NRF President and
CEO Matthew Shay said. “Heading into the second half of the year, we are
optimistic that overall economic growth and consumer spending will
continue to improve as they did in the first two quarters of the year.
We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with offering great deals
both in stores and online for back to school shoppers. And retailers
will keep a close eye on inventory levels as families spread out their
shopping throughout the summer.”

K-12 Spending

Families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend an average $673.57
on apparel and accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies, up
from last year’s $630.36 for a total of $27.3 billion, according to the
survey. That’s an increase of 9.6 percent from last year’s $24.9 billion
and compares with a total growth of 54.8 percent over the past 10 years.

The numbers follow a pattern in which spending often increases one year
as families stock up on supplies only to drop off the next as they get a
second year out of longer-lasting items like backpacks or computers.
Spending then increases in the third year once children outgrow clothing
or items need to be replaced.

According to the survey, K-12 consumers plan to spend $9.54 billion on
clothing (purchased by 95 percent), $8.27 billion on electronics such as
computers or calculators (57 percent), $5.12 billion on shoes (94
percent) and $4.37 billion on school supplies such as notebooks,
folders, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes (96 percent). Parents say
they will spend an average $235.39 on clothing, $204.06 on electronics,
$126.35 on shoes and $107.76 on school supplies.

Consumer confidence in the economy continues to grow and is a
significant factor in how families will spend for back-to-school this
year. A few more families are shopping for sales (43 percent, up from 41
percent) or comparing prices online (32 percent, up from 31 percent).
But the number who saying they are spending less overall is down at 23
percent compared with 27 percent last year. And the number who say the
economy will have no effect on their plans is at 27 percent, up from 24
percent last year and the highest level in the survey’s history.

“The budget-conscious consumer is not forgetting about price, quality or
value, and we continue to see this when it comes to back-to-school
shopping,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “That is why
many parents are taking advantage of shopping early, scouring ads and
websites for the best deals, and taking advantage of free shipping with
online purchases.”

More families are tackling back-to-school lists earlier this year with
73 percent beginning about a month to two months out from the beginning
of school, up from 62 percent last year. Only 22 percent are waiting for
the last week or two, down from 30 percent. A total of 75 percent of
those shopping early say they are trying to spread out their budgets, 63
percent of early shoppers don’t want to miss out on back-to-school sales
and 51 percent want to avoid crowds.

While discount stores continue to be the choice of the largest share of
shoppers at 61 percent, the number is at its lowest level in the
survey’s history. But 46 percent of parents said they would shop online,
a dramatic jump from last year’s 36 percent. The vast majority of online
shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping (89 percent of those
surveyed) and conveniences like buy online, pick up in store (54

Bigger Kids, Bigger Bills

College students and families with children in college plan to spend an
average of $888.71, according to the survey. That’s down slightly from
$899.18 last year, but total spending is expected to be up at $48.5
billion compared with $43.1 billion last year due to an increase of
consumers shopping for back-to-college.

“Whether it’s laptops for class or mini-fridges for the dorm, college
simply costs more than the lower grades,” Shay said. “Some of these
big-ticket items can last all four years, but when they need to be
replaced it’s a bigger investment than pencils and lunchboxes. But
retailers are ready to help students and parents alike stretch their
dollars and make the investment in college pay off.”

The survey found college consumers plan to spend $11.54 billion on
electronics (purchased by 50 percent), $7.49 billion on clothing (70
percent), $6.23 billion on dorm furnishings (43 percent), $5.78 billion
on food items (69 percent), $4.26 billion on personal care items (72
percent), $3.84 billion on shoes (67 percent), $3.53 billion on school
supplies (81 percent), $3.14 billion on gift cards (36 percent) and $2.7
billion on branded collegiate gear (49 percent). Spending on electronics
will average $211.33, apparel and accessories $137.29, dorm furnishings
$114.21, food $105.88, personal care items $78.03, shoes $70.39, school
supplies $64.64, gift cards $57.54 and branded gear $49.41.

Similar to K-12, 30 percent of college consumers say the economy will
not affect their shopping plans, up from 26 percent and the highest
level in the survey’s history. Fewer will shop for sales (29 percent,
down from 35 percent in 2015), spend less overall (26 percent, down from
30 percent) or buy more generic products (25 percent, down from 28

A few more college shoppers are starting early this year, with 26
percent starting two months before school compared with 24 percent last
year while 25 percent will wait until the last week or two, up slightly
from last year’s 24 percent. Of those shopping early, 68 percent say
they are trying to spread out their budgets.

Discount stores still account for the largest share of college shopping,
visited by 44 percent of consumers, but the number is at its lowest
level in the survey’s history. Only 34 percent will visit a college
bookstore, also a new low. Online shopping is the choice of 38 percent
of shoppers, down from 39 percent last year and a peak of 45 percent two
years ago.

The survey of 6,809 consumers asked about both back-to-school and
back-to-college plans was conducted June 30-July 6 and has a margin of
error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

If you are a member of the press and require additional information or
insight surrounding our back-to-school and college survey results,
please contact Ana Serafin Smith at

About Prosper Insights and Analytics

Prosper Insights and Analytics delivers executives timely,
consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive
resource of information, Prosper 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.

About NRF

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing
discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main
Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet
retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is
the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four
U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to
annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s
This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for
life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the
critical role retail plays in driving innovation.



National Retail Federation (NRF)
Treacy Reynolds or Ana Serafin