Back-to-school spending expected to break records this year, retail group says

Families with children in K-12 schools or colleges plan to spend more on back-to-school shopping this year than ever before, according to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation.

The group’s annual survey found that K-12 families plan to spend an average of $696.70, up by about $12 from last year and more than the previous record of $687.72 set in 2017. Families of college students plan to spend even more, an average of $976.78, up by about $34 from last year and more than the previous record, also set in 2017, of $969.88.

“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-t0-class items this year,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the retailers' group. “We’re expecting record spending and retailers are ready to provide students will all the items they need for a successful school year.”

Altogether, the National Retail Federation projects back-to-school shoppers will spend a total of $80.7 billion. Despite the record spending per family expected, that’s down from last year’s total $82.8 billion spent. The retailers' group attributed the drop to a lower number of households with children in elementary through high school.

Parents won’t be bearing the increased spending alone, the survey found. Teens and pre-teens are expected to spend more of their own money on back-to-school goods than students their age did 10 years ago.

“Members of Generation Z are clearly becoming more involved with 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.

Prosper Insight & Analytics conducted the survey for the retailers' group, questioning 7,660 consumers from July 1 through July 8. The survey found that 56 percent of people who plan to do back-to-school shopping hadn’t started yet. Nearly half of the shoppers said they were waiting for sales like Amazon Prime Day to get the best deals on their back-to-school items, according to Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy at Prosper Insights.

“Back-to-class shoppers still have the bulk of their shopping to do and are waiting to see what the best deals and promotions will be at a variety of different retailers,” Rist said.


Retailers like Target and Walmart scheduled sales of their own to overlap with Prime Day. eBay’s “Hot Deals for Hot Days” event was set to last two weeks, running through July 22. Other stores, like Office Depot and Barnes & Noble, have announced back-to-school sales that will run into September. Even Amazon has launched a back-to-school store on its site.

Fifty-nine percent of back-to-school shoppers surveyed said they would look at Prime Day for deals. Another 26 percent said they would look at other online retailers during Prime Day, and 23 percent said they’d look for in-store sales during the event.