Back-to-School College Spending to Surpass $47 Billion

August 31, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Media & Entertainment | Retail & E-Commerce | Technology | Youth & Gen X

Students and their parents are expected to spend a combined average of $956.93 on back-to-college merchandise, up from last year’s $880.52 – or $47.3 billion* in total – according to the National Retail Federation’s “2007 Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey,” conducted by BIGresearch.


According to the NRF study:

  • What students and parents will buy:
    • Clothing and accessories spending is expected to jump to $7.41 billion from last year’s $5.78 billion.
    • Laptops, digital cameras, along with iPhones and other cell phones, should again be big sellers, with students and their parents expected to spend a total of $12.8 billion on electronics.
    • Over $15 billion will be spent on textbooks.
    • Other “essentials” for college students include shoes ($2.96 billion) and school supplies such as notebooks, folders and pencils ($3.14 billion).
    • Dorm and apartment furnishings spending is expected to reach $5.43 billion, up from last year’s $3.82 billion. Young adults age 18-24 will shell out the most in this category, spending an average of $158.61.


  • Where the spending will take place:
    • College bookstores (57.2%)
    • Discounters (51.5%)
    • Department stores (41.8%)
    • Office supply stores (35.6%)
    • Clothing stores (34.3%)
    • Electronics stores (20.9%)
    • Nearly one-third of consumers plan to shop online for back-to-college necessities.
  • Students’ living situation:
    • Half of those polled (49.7%) said they would be living at home during the school year.
    • More than one-fourth (28.6%) will live in off-campus housing.
    • One-fifth (18.7%) will stay in a dormitory or other type of college housing.
    • A small fraction (1.3%) will live in a fraternity or sorority house.


  • Students living on-campus will outspend others by a wide margin as dorm dwellers are expected to spend $1,529.45 on college merchandise – nearly double what students living at home will spend ($774.86) and also more than students living off-campus ($1161.98)


  • Freshmen, many with gift cards and cash from graduation gifts, will spend the most this year ($1,193.60). Sophomores, with an average of $748.29, are expected to spend the least.


* Figure indicates total extrapolation of U.S. population of adults 18+

(Also see “Back-to-School Spending to Top $18 Billion.”)

About the survey: The NRF 2007 Back-to-College Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the Back to School season. The survey, which polled 7,710 consumers, was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from August 1 to 7.


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