Back-to-School Spending Looks Solid

August 4, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Financial Services | Retail & E-Commerce | Sports | Youth & Gen X

The average American family will spend $550 on back-to-school items this year, according to the August 2010 American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.

Spending Looks Healthy
A majority (80%) of consumers with children in preschool through high school expect to spend more (39%) or the same (41%) per child on back to school shopping this year compared to last year. Virtually all parents (94%) say they will look for ways to be resourceful and to stretch their dollars, primarily by shopping for clearance or sale merchandise (76%) and clipping coupons and/or watching for store promotions (63%).

Parents Keep up Appearances
While most parents (76%) say they are not pressured by their kids to spend beyond their means for back- to-school, some (19% of both the general population and affluents) admit to feeling peer pressure to “keep up” with other parents when back to school shopping. Young professionals especially feel pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to back to school shopping, with 36% stating so.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the general population say they will shop for designer labels or brand names for their children. Designer purchases will primarily be made on sneakers, jeans, and shoes and less so on outerwear, non-denim pants and accessories.

Clothing Number One Item
Clothing (88%), shoes (86%), and school supplies (85%) are the leading anticipated back-to-school expenses. In addition, one-third (34%) of parents say electronics are on their back to school shopping list.


Another 18% will purchase a computer or laptop, spending an average of $530. Other electronics on the shopping list include:

  • Calculators (16%)
  • Cell phones (11%)
  • MP3 players (7%)
  • E-Readers/iPads (5%)
  • Printers (5%)

Almost Half of Families Will Spend on Grooming
Forty-five percent of families intending to spend on cosmetic services and 37% expect to spend on beauty products as part of their kids’ back to school preparation. Of those planning to spend in grooming, hair care is by far the most popular category, with 89% planning to spend on haircuts and 37% planning to spend on hair styling.


The most expensive categories are also among the least popular. Spa services are the single most expensive grooming category on average ($80), but only 12% of families with intentions to spend on grooming plan to spend on them. The least popular category, tattoos, are the second-most expensive category on average ($70), with 9% of families with intentions to spend on grooming plan to spend on them.

9 in 10 Will Shop before School Starts
Eighty-seven percent of parents plan to make their back to school purchases before the start of the new school year and almost one-third (31%) planned to have their shopping completed by the end of July. Ten percent of parents say they will hold off on shopping until after the semester begins for reasons such as waiting for the best bargains (39%) or having a child who likes to check out the latest trends in the hallways before picking out their own new gear (19%).

Sports Leading Extracurricular Spending Area
Thirty-five percent of families will have kids playing sports this fall, spending an average of $150. The most expensive extracurricular area is music lessons, costing an average of $280. However, only 12% of families will enroll their kids in music lessons this fall.


NRF: Back-to-School Sales Forecast to Beat Past 2 Years
2010 back-to-school per capita family spending will rise 10.5% from 2009 levels and 2% from 2008 levels, according to data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGresearch. The average U.S. family will spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics for school-aged children K-12 this year, 10.5% more than $548.72 last year, and 2% more than $594.24 in 2008. Total spending on school-aged children in grades K-12 is expected to reach $21.35 billion, up 22.5% from $17.42 billion in 2009 and 6.2% from $20.1 billion in 2008.

About the Data: The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of consumers aged 18 and up. The research sample of 2,068 consumers among the U.S. general population included two subgroups: the affluent (household income $100,000 or more) and young professionals (younger than 30, college-educated, household income $50,000 or more, as well as 500 households with children in grades K-12. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between July 16-20, 2010.


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