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Footwear Spending to Fall for K-12 Shoppers as College Spend Rises

For the first time since 2015, K-12 back-to-school shoppers are likely to spend less than they did the year before, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) latest report on spending for the upcoming school year.

The average household with children enrolled in grades K-12 will be spending around $135.96 on shoes this school year. That’s down from $138.66 last year, a 2 percent decline, and the lowest since 2017. Only four times since 2007 has footwear spending fallen for K-12 households in the back-to-school season, according to NRF data gathered from a survey of 7,660 consumers.

College students, on the other hand, are pegged to raise their footwear spending by a little more than 12 percent in 2019. Households with college students are expected to spend an average of $94.79 compared to just $83.41 in 2018.

K-12 households are still expected to spend a record amount on clothing and accessories this year, on average. However, total back-to-school spending for the group will likely fall around 5 percent to $27.5 billion from $26.2 billion in 2018. This, according to NRF, is likely owed to the falling number of qualifying families in the United States in 2019. Regardless, average spending is expected to hit new highs in 2019 for K-12 households at $696.70, up from $684.79 last year, marking a new record.

“Consumers are in a strong position given the nation’s growing economy, and we see this reflected in what they say they will spend on back-to-class items this year,” Matthew Shay, NRF’s president and CEO said. “We’re expecting record spending and retailers are ready to provide students with all the items they need for a successful school year.”

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Families with college students will also spend more, on average, paying roughly $976.78 for school supplies, up from $942.17 in 2018, and yet another new record. However, fewer survey respondents reported attending college in this year’s report, bringing total spending down 1.4 percent to $54.5 billion.

Compared to other expenses, footwear spending will be the third-highest spending category for K-12 shoppers behind general clothing and accessories, at an average of $239.82, and electronics at $203.44. College students are expected to spend an average of $234.69 on electronics, the most of any back-to-school category for the group, followed by clothing and accessories at $148.54 and dorm furnishings at an average of $120.19. NRF expects footwear to be a smaller portion of the college back-to-school pie than food items, which are expected to cost the average household $98.72.

Families with K-12 children are most likely to shop at department stores for their back-to-school purchases, with 53 percent saying they expected to patronize department stores for their gear. Discount stores followed close behind with 50 percent saying they would look there for some of their purchases and 49 percent expect to use an online retailer at some point in the back-to-school process.

In any case, the NRF cautioned that this could change over the next few weeks as families pick out the best deals and discounts for their children. More than 89 percent of both K-12 and college shoppers said they still had to complete the bulk of their back-to-school shopping.