NRF Projects Slide in Back-to-School Spending

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Clothing, shoes and school supplies will be strong sellers for the back-to-school season this year, but weak spending in electronics will temper overall results, a new National Retail Federation survey found.


The NRF 2005 Back-to-School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey polled 6,487 consumers. It was conducted July 6-13 for NRF by BIGresearch.


The survey found that families with school-aged children will spend an average of $443.77 on back-to-school items, down 8.2 percent from $483.28 last year. Back-to-school spending is estimated to reach $13.39 billion this year, down from $14.79 billion last year.


Most of the drop will stem from the electronics category, where spending is expected to fall to $2.06 billion from $3.09 billion last year. Though 44 percent of consumers plan to buy electronics for back-to-school, similar to the 41.7 percent who purchased for that category last year, average spending is projected to fall to $68.08, compared with $101.03 last year.


Other back-to-school items are expected to perform at last year's level. More than 90 percent of consumers plan to buy clothing (93.9 percent), shoes (92.3 percent) and school supplies (95.1 percent). Clothing again will take the biggest piece of the spending pie, with parents planning to spend an average of $205.31 on apparel, slightly less than the $219.46 they allocated last year. Consumers will average $88.54 on shoes and $81.83 on school supplies.


One of the largest shifts involved spending by region. Consumers in the Midwest, who spent more on average last year than any other region ($571.67), are expected to pull back this year, spending only $404.68. However, consumers in the Northeast, who averaged $435.37 last year, plan to boost spending to $513.07. Spending in the South will drop ($535.53 in 2004 vs. $434.09 this year) while spending in the West will rise substantially ($381.47 last year to $409.19 this year).


Parents have embraced an early back-to-school promotional season this year, and many are already shopping. According to the survey, one in six parents (16.1 percent) begins shopping at least two months before school starts. Another 43.9 percent begin three weeks to one month before school starts.


Children will spend less of their own money this year for back-to-school items, the survey said. Parents said their teenagers would spend an average of $20.47 of their own money, down from $38.51 last year. Preteens will also spend less, with parents saying the average preteen will spend $8.12 of their own money versus $9.44 last year.


Once again, discount stores will be a major destination for parents, as 77 percent will head to a discounter for back-to-school items. Consumers also will head to department stores (39.7 percent), office supplies stores (29.3 percent), specialty stores (18.8 percent) and drug stores (14.4 percent). Others will shop online (13.6 percent) or through catalogs (4.1 percent).


Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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