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NRF: BTS shoppers focused on value, most shopping later

WASHINGTON — NRF reported that total back-to-school spending on grades K to 12 is expected to reach $22.8 billion. According to NRF’s 2011 Back-to-School survey conducted by BIGresearch, families with children in grades K to 12 will spend an average of $603.63 on apparel, school supplies and electronics, within a few dollars of last year’s $606.40 average. 

“Families aren’t opposed to spending on what they need, but parents want their children to take a good look around at what they already have before deciding what to buy for back to school this year,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers understand consumers are extremely focused on value and are taking this opportunity to offer substantial savings on merchandise.”

In order to compensate for the economy, NRF found that consumers are purchasing more store-brand or generic items (39.9%), comparison shopping more online (29.8%), and shopping for sales (50%). Additionally, nearly half of survey respondents said the economy is forcing them to simply spend less in general (43.7%).

Having replenished many of their children’s needs last year, average spending on clothing ($220.60) and school supplies ($88.99) will slightly decrease this year. Families will also spend an average of $104.53 on shoes, a slight increase over last year.

Though average spending on computers, cell phones, mp3 players and tablet devices is expected to increase slightly to $189.51, just over half (51.9%) of families with school-aged children plan to purchase electronics this year, down from last year’s historically-high 63.7%. 

Department stores have grown in popularity as back-to-school destinations. According to the survey, 57% of back-to-school shoppers will head to a department store, up from 53.9% last year and the most in the survey’s eight-year history. Though the majority of back-to-school shoppers plan to make at least one purchase from a discount store (68.4%), clothing stores (48.7%), office supply stores (38%) and electronics stores (21.7%) will also be popular. Additionally, more people this year will shop online (31.7% vs. 30.8% last year) and in drug stores (21.1% vs. 19.5% last year).

NRF said its survey results indicate that most families will do their back-to-school shopping closer to the start of the school year. While most families will begin shopping three weeks to one month before school starts (42.4%), nearly one-third (31.2%) will begin their shopping one to two weeks before school starts - up from one-quarter (24.8%) last year. Some will get a jump start and begin shopping two months before the new school year (21.8%) and the remainder will shop the week school starts (2%) or after school starts (2.6%).

“Back-to-school shopping may be exhilarating for kids who ride along, but for mom and dad this is serious business,” said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director for BIGresearch. “By shopping around at a variety of retailers before deciding where to buy, parents will be able to find the best values on the items they really need this year.”

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