Back-to-school season is the second most competitive retail season after the winter holidays; yet despite the wide array of deals offered from textbooks to MacBooks, families are spending more than ever on school supplies this year, as consumer optimism remains at a 16-year high.
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Back-to-school spending for elementary through high school students is expected to reach $29.6 billion in 2017, which is up from $27.3 billion in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation. Families will spend $688 on average for 2017, compared to $674 last year.
July and August account for 70% of back-to-school sales, with retailers ringing in more than $19 billion in the two-month period, according to Deloitte. And as traditional retail knows well, more and more shoppers are looking for deals online, as 75% of shoppers say they use social media and the web to view promotions, 64% to receive a coupon, and 43% to browse products.
Another enticement for many shoppers this summer is a sales tax holiday, which has been offered by 16 states over various weekends in July and August.
Deloitte reported that 53% of shoppers would increase their in-store purchases as a result of a sales tax holiday, and 44% would increase their online purchases. Conversely, 44% of shoppers would not finish their purchases if sales tax was automatically included.
Sales tax rates range from as low as 3% in Louisiana to 7% in Mississippi and Tennessee, according to WalletHub.
Other states offering sales tax breaks are Alabama, Missouri and Oklahoma with roughly 4%, New Mexico and Virginia with about 5%, and Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, South Carolina, and Texas offering roughly 6%. These rates apply to the gross sales of personal property and vary slightly for food, vehicles, and machinery.