Back-to-Class Spending Projected to Reach New High

August 3, 2021

This article is included in these additional categories:

Customer-Centric | Digital | Education | Industries | Retail & E-Commerce | Social Media | Spending Trends | Technology

NRF Back to Class Spending Forecasts 2007 2021 Aug2021It won’t be long before kids are loading up their backpacks and heading back to class. And, whether it be for heading back to K-12 or college, the amount of money families anticipate spending for school supplies and technology this year is expected to reach record highs, per the latest back-to-school survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Based on its annual survey, this time of more than 7,700 US consumers, NRF estimates that the combined total to be spent on K-12 and college will reach $108.1 billion this year, up from $101.6 billion last year.

Of the combined total to be spent on back-to-school and back-to-college, K-12 school spending accounts for $37.1 billion (up 9% over 2020), while college spending is expected to represent $71 billion (up 5% over 2020).

Per-household spending for K-12 students is expected to reach $848.90, up from $789.49. Households sending their kids off to college are forecast to spend an average of $1,200.32 each, which is up from the per-family expenditure of $1,059.20 in 2020.

The survey from early July shows that the majority of back-to-school (70%) and back-to-college (68%) shoppers planned to start their school shopping at least three weeks before school starts. However, about half (51%) of total respondents said they had already started shopping.

Of the top 3 back-to-class spending categories, electronics will be the biggest per-household expenditure for both back-to-school ($295.65) and back-to-college ($306.41) spenders, followed by clothing for back-to-school ($253.46 per household) and dorm/apartment furnishings for back-to-college ($164.38 per household).

Online Spending Expected to Increase

For its part, Deloitte’s annual back-to-school survey of 1,200 respondents with at least one child attending grades K-12 this fall shows the gap between the share of in-store and online spending is narrowing. On average, 43% of back-to-class budgets are expected to be spent in-store (flat from last year), while 39% is expected to be spent online (up from 37% last year), with 18% still undecided.

The use of smartphones to aid shopping has also increased over the last year. Some 58% of back-to-school shoppers plan to use a smartphone to assist in shopping this year, compared to 46% who said the same in 2020. However, it’s still below the 6 in 10 who had planned to use a smartphone to assist in shopping in 2019.

And, as the number of people who shop via social media continues to increase, Deloitte’s survey finds that back-to-school shoppers are also relying more on social media to help them with their shopping. Some 41% plan to use social media in this manner this year, compared to 25% who did so last year.

About the Data: NRF’s findings are based on a survey of 7,704 consumers conducted between July 1-8, 2021.

Deloitte’s findings are based on a May-June 2021 online survey of 1,200 parents of school-aged children, with respondents having at least one child attending school in grades K-12 this fall.


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