Consumers prepare students for back-to-school with potential record level spending
Consumers tentatively plan to spend a record amount to prepare students for school and college this year as they buy more laptops and computer accessories in anticipation that at least some classes will take place online because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
“By any measure, this is an unprecedented year with great uncertainty, including how students will get their education this fall whether they are in kindergarten or college,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO for NRF. “Most parents don’t know whether their children will be sitting in a classroom or in front of a computer in the dining room, or a combination of the two. But they do know the value of an education and are navigating uncertainty and unknowns so that students are prepared.”
Parents with children in elementary school through high school say they plan to spend an average $789.49 per family, topping the previous record of $696.70 they said they would spend last year. Spending is expected to total $33.9 billion, up from $26.2 billion last year and breaking the record of $30.3 billion set in 2012.
College students and their families expect to spend an average $1,059.20 per family, which would top last year’s record of $976.78. College spending is expected to total $67.7 billion, up from $54.5 billion last year and breaking the record of $55.3 billion set in 2018.
Total spending for K-12 and college combined is projected to reach $101.6 billion – exceeding last year’s $80.7 billion and topping the $100 billion mark for the first time.
With many school districts and colleges across the nation still deciding whether to reopen their classrooms in the fall, consumers surveyed had finished only 17% of their shopping on average by early July. Among those with most of their shopping left to do, 54% said it was because they did not yet know what they will need. Only 10% had received lists of required school supplies. But 40% expect to receive the lists by the end of this month and another 30% by the end of August – information that could reflect schools’ reopening plans and affect how much consumers actually spend.
Amid the uncertainty, 55% of shoppers surveyed expected K-12 and college students will take at least some of their classes at home this fall, with only 26% expecting most or all classes will be taught in-person. Of those expecting students to be at home, 72% believe they will need to buy items like computers, home furnishings or other supplies to accommodate learning.
The survey found:
- 36% expect to buy laptops
- 22% computer speakers/headphones
- 21% other accessories such as a mouse or flash drive
- 17% printers.
- A similar 17% plan to buy non-computer items including calculators, furniture like a desk or chair, and workbooks.