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Back to School Supplies
Public Policy

Parents ‘Still Grappling’ with Back-to-School Spending

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With the nation’s economy improving, back-to-school spending is expected to increase this summer but parents are still being careful with their money, according to NRF’s annual survey.

“While we are encouraged by the overall tone of the results and expect to see continued improvements in consumer spending through the year, we know Americans are still grappling with their purchase decisions every day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We expect parents to continue to use caution but also make smart decisions for their family budget that are a good balance between what their children want and what they actually need.”

The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669 this year, up 5 percent from last year for a total of $26.5 billion, according to the survey. College students and their parents will spend an average $916, up 10 percent for a total of $48.4 billion.

The increases were attributed to modest improvements in the economy that have boosted consumer confidence along with increased spending on laptops, tablets, smartphones and other electronics increasingly needed by students.

The biggest share of K-12 spending (an average of $231) will go to clothing, followed closely by electronics ($212); school supplies like pencils and paper will total $101. Most shopping will be spread out over the summer, but a quarter of families will wait until a week or two before school begins in the hope of getting last-minute bargains.

For college students, average spending on electronics is expected to total $243 — up 20 percent from last year and the highest amount since 2009. Clothing will average $139 and school supplies $75.

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