Even as broader retail spending shows signs of slipping, there's a bright spot for the industry: More U.S. parents are planning to increase their back-to-school budgets this fall than at any time in at least the past four years.
About 67% of consumers plan to boost purchases this season from last year, according to a survey released Tuesday by the International Council of Shopping Centers. That would be the biggest gain since the group began tracking the figure in 2012.
The bullish buying plans are good news for retailers, which see the back-to-school season as second only to the holiday shopping period in importance. Merchants last year struggled through the slowest sales growth since the recession ended in 2009.
The growth in spending is driven by changing requirements at schools. Thirty percent of respondents cited that reason for their planned increase. About 29% said they would spend more to replace clothing and school supplies, according to the New York-based trade group.
"Back-to-school is viewed as an essential purchase," said Jesse Tron, a spokesman for ICSC.
Back-to-school sales rose 3.1% in 2014, missing the expected 3.2% increase, according to research firm Customer Growth Partners LLC.
Total U.S. retail spending suffered an expected drop in June, the Commerce Department reported on Tuesday. Purchases decreased 0.3% last month, following a 1% advance in May. The median forecast of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.3% gain. Eight of 13 major retail categories showed declines in demand.
An early Memorial Day holiday probably contributed to higher sales in May, hurting results in June. Stronger gains in incomes may be needed to keep fueling consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70% of the economy.