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Back-to-School Spending on the Rise, Birkenstock Reigns Supreme

Summer is drawing to a close, but back-to-school shoppers are still spending.

According to First Data’s SpendTrend report, BTS spending through July is up 2 percent year-over-year—a sure sign that sales are bouncing back after lukewarm growth from 2013 to 2015. This year’s bump is driven by a 5.5% increase in electronics and appliance sales, followed by a 3.4% rise at sporting goods and hobby stores, while general merchandise is up 2.7%.

July 2016 also saw an average spend of $63.81 per ticket—that’s a couple dollars shy of last year’s overall season average of $66.71, but still an improvement on 2014 and 2013. And despite lower average ticket prices for this year compared with last, First Data’s report found that transaction growth is up 2.3% through July.

“Lower prices due to discounting are driving more foot traffic and higher transaction growth rates,” the report noted.

Clothing and accessories did get off to a slow start in July, suffering a 1.6% decline. But promotions helped turn that around in the first week of August, as states hosting tax-free holidays experienced 8.4% growth, while the remainder achieved a 3 percent increase.

Though the National Retail Federation (NRF) last week said that more than half of families with K-12 aged kids had yet to complete their BTS shopping, Think With Google found that parents are starting their research earlier than ever using Google Search and YouTube. In fact, BTS-related search queries saw a sharp rise July 11-17—a full week earlier than last year.

A majority of these searches are happening on the go, too, with three-out-of-five taking place on mobile in July—35 percent more mobile searches than last year. Plus, Think With Google pointed to strong evidence that mobile is increasingly sending shoppers to stores. Last August, for instance, searches about “back to school” followed by a visit to a department store within a week were up 20 percent on the previous year.

So what’s topping BTS shopping lists in 2016? Specialty backpacks and footwear. Searches for Victoria’s Secret Pink brand backpacks are up a whopping 1,000 percent this year, while Sprayground and Fjällräven are trending, too. Notably, the popularity of Pokémon Go has also led to a spike in Pokémon-themed packs.

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On the shoe side of things, Birkenstock has been a top choice for three straight years and interest in the brand is up a further 46 percent this year. Elsewhere, the influence of celebrity culture is clear to see, with Stephen Curry’s Under Armour shoe and Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy Boost both making an appearance in the top five.