Parents and college students will spend an average of $907.22 this year on back-to-college items, up 12.2% from $808.71 last year, after 2 consecutive years of decline, according to the 2012 Back-to-School survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGresearch. Combined back-to-school ($30.3 billion) and back-to-college ($53.45 billion) spending will hit almost $84 billion. According to the report, this makes the back-to-school and back-to-college season the second-largest consumer spending event for retailers, after the winter holidays.
Average Spending on Electronics Up Slightly
54% of college students and their parents say they will buy an electronic device, be it a computer, MP3 player, smartphone or other device, up 18% from 45.8% in 2011. The average spend will be $216.40, up just 3% from last year’s $209.93; still, this represents a significant reversal as spending in that category decreased by 11% from 2010 to 2011. College freshmen will lead the pack in 2012 spending on electronics, at $262.58.
In other categories of spending, nearly three-quarters of back-to-college shoppers will buy apparel and accessories, spending an average of $132.97, and 71% (the highest in the survey’s history) will buy new shoes, spending an average of $75.81. Shoppers will also spend on dorm furnishings ($100.27), food items ($100.18), personal care items ($81.76), school supplies ($75.73) and collegiate branded gear ($52.87).
Dept. Store Shopping Down, Catalog Use Up
45.4% of families with college-aged children will shop at a department store, a dip from last year’s 47.6%, but still up from prior years, such as 2010 (42.5%) and 2009 (43.1%). Others will shop at discount stores (51.9%), office supply stores (40.3% – up from 33.4%), college bookstores (40.9%), and clothing stores (34.8%). Online retailers will see a 11.7% boost in traffic this year as 37.3% of respondents plan to shop online, up from 33.4% last year.
15.1% of shoppers plan to use catalogs to buy their college items, up from 11.4% last year and just 8.3% the year prior. Roughly one-quarter of the 25-34 set will use catalogs to purchase college items.
Rise In Live-Away Students Boosts Furnishing Buys
Further data from the survey indicates that 18.9% fewer college-aged children will be living at home this year than last (42.9% vs. 52.9%), and more will live in a dorm room or college housing (25.9% vs. 18.1%).
As a result, home furnishing stores will see a jump in traffic this year, with 16.4% of back-to-college shoppers heading to a home furnishings or home d?cor store, up from 11.2% in 2011.
Economy Still Affects Collegiate Spending
More than 4 in 5 back-to-college shoppers say the economy will impact their spending plans this year, virtually unchanged from last year. To compensate, a greater proportion of shoppers will be doing more comparative shopping online (34.6% vs. 30.7% in 2011) and more will also shop online more often (20.5% vs. 18.8%). More parents will also ask their children to make-do with last year’s items (31.2% vs. 29.7% last year). Of note, only 32.3% will buy more store brand and generic products, down from 38% last year.
About the Data: The NRF/BIGinsight poll of 8,509 consumers was conducted from July 2-9, 2012.