Back-to-School Shopping to Kick Off Later This Year

Spending Expected to Reach $74.9 Billion

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More shoppers will use mobile phones this year.
More shoppers will use mobile phones this year.

Despite marketers' insistence on kicking off back-to-school advertising in July, more consumers will be shopping closer to the start of school this year.

According to the National Retail Federation, 33% of shoppers will begin shopping less than two weeks before school starts, including a small but growing percentage who will wait until after school starts. By comparison, 27% shopped during the same period last year.

NRF, which conducts its annual back-to-school survey with Prosper Insights & Analytics, expects combined back-to-school and back-to-college spending to reach $74.9 billion, down 11% from last year's $84 billion. According to NRF, there are fewer students in households this year, but those families spending will be spending a little more. The average family with K-12 students will spend $669.28 this season, up 5% from a year ago. The average family with college students will spend $916.48, up 10% from a year ago.

Still, even with spending figures up, eight in 10 shoppers said their spending plans continue to be impacted by the economy. More families will buy store brand or generic products, and more will reuse last year's school gear. (That bodes well for Target, which is heavily promoting its store brand this season with a campaign that will donate one Up & Up school supply for every one purchased.)

"Slow improvements in the economy may have contributed to the growth in confidence among back-to-school shoppers, and while we are encouraged by the overall tone of the results and expect to see continued improvement in consumer spending through the year, we know Americans are still grappling with their purchase decisions every day," said Matthew Shay, NRF president-CEO.

The number of consumers turning to their mobile devices to shop and research products also continues to rise. Of those consumers who own tablets, 45% plan to research products on their device, while 31% will actually purchase products. And of those consumers who own smartphones, 37% plan to research products, while 22% will make purchases on their devices.

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