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NRF Says Back-to-School Shopping To Reach $75.8 Billion

It may be summer, but consumers are spending a great deal on apparel and shoes for the upcoming back-to-school season.

According to NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, the average family is expected to spend more freely for BTS items this year. Overall spending for K-12 and college students is projected to reach $75.8 billion in 2016. That’s a $7.8 billion jump from last year.

“Families are still looking for bargains, but there are signs that they are less worried about the economy than in the past. We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with offering great deals both in stores and online for back-to-school shoppers,” said Matthew Shay, NRF’s president and chief executive officer. “And retailers will keep a close eye on inventory levels as families spread out their shopping throughout the summer.”

Families with K-12 grade children are planning to spend an average $673.57 on all school supplies, including clothing and footwear, for a total amount of $27.3 billion. Compared to last year’s average ($630.36) and total amount ($24.9 billion), this is a 9.6% increase. Over the past 10 years, consumers have more than doubled their spending on annual school supplies.

Clothing and footwear are some of the top BTS purchases for K-12 consumers. According to the survey, K-12 shoppers are expected to spend $9.54 billion on clothing (95 percent) and $5.12 billion on shoes (94 percent). Parents project they will spend an average of $235.39 on clothing and $126.35 on shoes for their children.

BTS consumers are spending smartly, even though the economy is not affecting their purchasing habits as much this year. More families are shopping for sales (43 percent) and comparing prices online (32 percent).

“The budget-conscious consumer is not forgetting about price, quality or value, and we continue to see this when it comes to back-to-school shopping,” said Prosper principal analyst Pam Goodfellow. “That is why many parents are taking advantage of shopping early, scouring ads and websites for the best deals, and taking advantage of free shipping with online purchases.”

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Although a majority of BTS consumers prefer discount stores (61 percent), this is the lowest level ever in the NRF’s survey history. More BTS consumers are also shopping online (46 percent) compared to 36 percent last year. Free shipping (89 percent) and omnichannel options (54 percent) are also highly favored by this year’s BTS consumers.

Major retailers, including J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Kmart, Macy’s and Target are also preparing for the upcoming BTS season with seamless e-commerce services and affordable clothing collections. JC Penney is offering consumers same-day pickup of website orders in all locations. Kohl’s is donating up to $1 million in consumer purchases to Kmart posted a budget-friendly back-to-school style guide for parents. Reviving the ‘90s, Macy’s is hosting throwback-themed shopping parties and offering trendy decade pieces for teens. Target also launched a kid-created marketing campaign, which puts young consumers in charge of its $5 million annual school donation.

Shay expressed how he is hopeful about the upcoming BTS season and its overall economic impact from consumer engagement.

“Heading into the second half of the year, we are optimistic that overall economic growth and consumer spending will continue to improve as they did in the first two quarters of the year,” he said.