Back-to-school spending down this year; chalk it up to big outlays in 2012

Back-to-school spending will be down in 2013, following a strong 2012.

Families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion. Total back-to-school and back-to-college spending combined will reach $72.5 billion.

The data are a result of the National Retail Federation’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, released Thursday.

“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind. Having splurged on their growing children’s needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season,” says federation President and CEO Matthew Shay.

He noted, however, that spending levels are still “well above” where they were a few years ago.

In 2011, per-family spending was $603.63, and it was $606.40 in 2010.

In a recent survey conducted by BIGinsight, nearly 77 percent of families with school-age children said the state of the U.S. economy will affect their back-to-school spending plans.

One-quarter of families with students in grades K-12 will ask their children to reuse items for the upcoming school year, up from 23.5 percent last year. Another 18.4 percent will use the Web to compare prices.

The survey also found 36.7 percent of parents will use coupons and 36.9 percent will purchase generic products.

Even with the projected decrease, retailers are intensifying their back-to-school marketing efforts. Already, big name retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores and Target have released their back-to-school items, with entire shopping aisles devoted to backpacks, crayons and notebooks.

Bill Tancer, general manager of global research for Experian Marketing Services, said the peak week for back-to-school shopping is July 29-Aug. 5. The peak for online searches happened the week of Aug. 4 last year.

According to ShopperTrak, overall national retail sales will rise 4.3 percent in August, and retail foot traffic will increase 0.6 percent.

“Back-to-school shopping is the first major shopping season of the calendar year and has the potential to set the tone for the holidays,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. “The economy is, in many ways, stronger than it was last August. We expect that the 2013 season will continue the growth trend of both retail sales and foot traffic.”

ShopperTrak measures foot traffic in more than 60,000 global locations.

“On the whole, more people feel better about their financial situation than they did last year in August,” Martin said. “Parents are ready to spend on their children’s school necessities.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588.
Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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