NRF Predicts Record Back-To-School Spending

NRF Predicts Record Back-To-School Spending

by  @mahoney_sarah, July 13, 2023

NRF Predicts Record Back-To-School Spending
Spending on electronics, like this Apple product, could be this season’s wild card.

The National Retail Federation expects back-to-class spending to rise 12% this year, reaching a record $41.5 billion. Much of that gain stems from an estimated $20 billion jump in back-to-college shopping.

For elementary through high school kids, that breaks down to an average of $890, up $25 from last year. And families with a college-bound child plan to spend an average of $1,367 per person, up from $1,199.43 last year. And since 2019, back-to-college spending has nearly doubled.

For all back-to-class shoppers, the top destinations are online, department stores and discount stores. 

NRF’s research, conducted with Prosper Insights & Analytics and based on a survey of 7,800 parents, is markedly different from the 10% decline recently reported in Deloitte’s recent survey. And while that research did not include college spending, the results gap may indicate how unpredictable the back-to-school market may be. On the one hand, continued strong employment numbers and cooling inflation may calm jittery middle- and lower-income shoppers. On the other, family budgets are still under pressure from higher interest rates, vanishing COVID-era benefits, and the resumption of student-loan payments.

The NRF says parents are already out there, powering through their lists. When it fielded the survey in early July, 55% had already started shopping. And while that’s roughly the same as last year, that number was up 44% from 2019, a testament to the growing importance of shopping holidays like Amazon Prime Day and Target Circle Week.

The biggest source of the increase, per the NRF study, is electronics, with 69% of the survey anticipating such a purchase, compared with 65% last year. That’s the highest in the survey’s 20-year history. And if parents follow through with those intentions, it will mean a record $15.2 billion for electronics.

Again, this contrasts sharply with Deloitte’s findings, which forecasts a 13% dip in electronics spending.

Economic concerns are likely making an always-stressful parent-child experience even worse. A new survey by Zulilly, the online retailer, conducted with Wakefield Research, reports that 55% of back-to-school shoppers say the experience is worse than holiday shopping.

Just over 80% of parents have argued with kids while shopping, with 49% fighting about price (cue the shouting match in the sneaker section, where many of the season’s must-haves are priced at $180). Another 35% have clashed on style, and 26% about brands.

And with remote learning fast becoming a memory, kids feel more stress, with 83% of parents agreeing there is more pressure to keep up with fashion trends.

Despite economic pressures on families with school-age kids, the National Retail Federation’s annual survey forecasts solid spending increases.