Back-to-school shopping expected to set record

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The National Retail Federation says that parents will spend an average of $696.70 for supplies.

It’s the time of the year when children suddenly realize that their carefree summer days are numbered.

Back-to-school season has arrived and retailers are ready for the wave of parents and students.

For Exeter Township-based Boscov’s, back-to-school may not be as big as Christmas shopping season, but it’s definitely near the top.

“It’s one our biggest initiatives,” said Milissa Gazda, Boscov’s senior vice president of advertising. “It’s easily in our top three or four seasons.”

In fact, back-to-school — or back-to-campus for college-aged students — is a store-wide phenomenon at all of its 48 locations.

“It’s not just apparel,” Gazda said. “The home area sees a lot of shoppers for back-to-campus. They are shopping to fill dorms and apartments.”

That includes items ranging from curtains, to desks, to coffee makers. Boscov’s even sells storage containers to help with the moves.

Record spending

In its annual back-to-school shopping survey, the National Retail Federation says that families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend a record average of $696.70 for supplies. It’s up from last year’s average of $684.79 and beats the previous record of $688.62 set in 2012.

The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, also found that fewer families have school-aged children, so overall spending will drop to $26.2 billion from $27.5 billion.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says a strong economy and consumer confidence is helping drive sales figures to new heights.

“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,” Shay said in a press release. “We’re expecting record spending and retailers are ready to provide students with all the items they need for a successful school year.”

Those with back-to-campus students will be spending an average of $976.78, an increase from $942.17 last year. It beats the previous record of $969.88 set in 2017. Like the K-12 parents, there are fewer with college-age students, so overall spending will be down to $54.5 billion from last year’s record $55.3 billion

That’s a combined $80.7 billion, a drop from last year’s $82.8 billion.

Teens are also contributing themselves, spending an average of $36.71 of their own money.

“Members of Generation Z are clearly becoming more involved in back-to-school purchasing decisions rather than leaving the choices up to mom and dad,” Shay said. “Over the years, both teens and pre-teens are spending more of their own money on back-to-school items.”

Paying more

While individual spending is up in the K-12 category, a study by has found that many parents feel pressure to pay too much on supplies.

The report found that 43% of parents have felt the need to overspend, including 51% who have children under age 18. As a comparison, Bankrate says that 57% of parents with children under 18 felt pressure to overspend on Christmas presents.

“For many parents, back-to-school shopping can be just as daunting as the holiday shopping season, and the pressure to overspend — whether from your own children, social media or somewhere else — can wreak havoc on a budget,” said analyst Ted Rossman in a statement. “It’s important to identify you spending triggers and to set limits.”

Millenial parents appear to the most likely to feel the squeeze, the survey said, as 56% reported they are pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with, compared to 39% of older parents.

Why do they shell out the extra cash? To keep up appearances.

Bankrate said about half of those surveyed say that have felt pressured to overspend on something in order to look successful in the eyes of others. About 64% of millenials admit to this, as do 65% of parents with children under 18.

What are they buying?

The NRF says that clothing and accessories at the top of K-12 expenses with an average of $239.82 per family, followed by electronics — such as computers, calculators and phones — at $203.44, shoes ($135.96) and other supplies ($117.49), such as pencils, notebooks, backpacks and lunch boxes.

College shoppers are spending the most on electronics ($234.69), followed by clothing and accessories ($148.54), dorm and apartment furnishings ($120.19) and food items ($98.72).

Boscov’s Gazda said among apparel, activewear is popular, especially clothing made by Champion, “which is having a huge resurrection.”

“There lots of synergy between juniors and girls, and young mens and boys,” she said. “The young girl wants to look like her older sister and the young boy wants to be like his older brother.”

Other popular brands include Nike and Addidas, Gazda said. That includes banded jogging pants.

Other trends include body suits with soft pants, jumpsuits and rompers for spring and summer, along with basic denim outfits including jeans.

Colorful backpacks and bags, such as ones designed by Betsey Johnson, are also in style, Gazda said.

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