Average Family will Spend $800 on Back-to-School

american-express-back-to-school-jul11.gifThe average US family of four plans to spend $800 on back to school purchases this year but two-thirds of U.S. parents (67%) say they will need to make trade-offs to afford these expenses, according to the July 2011 American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. Clothing ($290), shoes ($110), and school supplies ($100) top back to school shopping lists.

Six in 10 (61%) parents plan to purchase designer labels and name brands, with sneakers (68%), jeans (66%) and shoes (53%) the three most popular clothing items parents plan to obtain. To pay for these and other costs, parents plan to dine out less (53%) and spend less on entertainment (39%) as well as their own wardrobe (37%).

4 in 10 Parents Plan Cosmetic Spending

Nearly four in 10 (39%) parents expect to purchase cosmetic or beauty products and services. Haircuts ($40) and hair styling ($70) top the list, but parents will also spend on:

  • Braces ($2,000);
  • Teeth whitening ($140);
  • Spa treatments ($100);
  • Manicures and Pedicures ($50).

Electronics Purchases Down 26%

More than one quarter (27%) of parents say electronics are on their back to school shopping lists. This number is down 26% from last year among parents with kids in high school or below (25% in 2011 compared to 34% in 2010). The largest single purchase some parents (13%) will make is a laptop computer ($830). Other electronics that made the shopping list include:

  • Scientific calculator (10%);
  • Cell phones (9%);
  • Printer (7%);
  • MP3 player (5%);
  • E-reader/iPad (4%)

Kids Have Influence

Many external factors influence parents’ purchasing decisions but when it comes to what to buy for back to school, the kids rule. More than two-thirds of parents (67%) say that their kids’ wishes/desires carry the most weight. Thirty-nine percent of parents also admit that their children have more influence when it comes to buying their back to school wardrobe, 26% more than the 31% of parents who say they have more influence over what to buy. Current trends (20%), friends/family (19%) and TV (17%) also shape parents’ purchases.

Parents Decide Where to Shop

When it comes to where they shop, half of parents (50%) say they decide where to go, about 160% more than listen to their children (19%). Nearly two in five (38%) parents plan to shop for their kids clothes at department stores. Significantly fewer (24%) parents will choose to shop at an outlet or discount store.

Deals, Convenience Drive Parents Online

Of those parents who plan to shop online for back to school clothes, online coupons and deals (31%) and avoiding the hassle of lines (21%) are their primary reasons.

NRF: Total Back-to-School Spend Up

Although 2011 back-to-school per capita family spending is expected to be down slightly compared to 2010, total money spent should be higher, according to a July forecast from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGresearch. Based on different metrics, total spending on grades K-12 is expected to reach $22.8 billion, up 7% from $21.35 billion in 2010 and 31% higher than $17.42 billion in 2009.

Meanwhile, the average US family will spend $603.63 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics for school-aged children K-12 this year, down fractionally from $606.40 last year but up 10% from $548.72 in 2009.

About the Data: The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 811 parents of children in grades kindergarten through college. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between July 2 and July 6, 2011.