The NPD Group, Inc. sees that for back-to-school 2009 consumers will continue to slow their spending but that the decrease won’t be as big as the one seen in 2008. Overall, consumers tell NPD that they aren’t in a hurry to shop. This year there was a 5% increase in the number of consumers saying they either ‘haven’t started’ or ‘don’t plan to shop’ for back-to-school as of July 2009. “While this 5% increase is not a huge increase, it’s enough of a shift to show us that there is no real rush by consumers to shop, even with the deep discounts being offered early in the season,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. In addition to starting later, consumers say they plan to spend less for back-to-school this year. This year the number of consumers that tell NPD they ‘plan to spend less’ for back-to-school rose by 9 points. “Last year we had an even bigger drop-off in spending intentions,” said Cohen. “So the good news is that the bigger drop off is behind us. And the ‘not so bad news’ is that back-to-school is in line with the current trend of consumers cutting back but not out.” Additionally, this year consumers say they are making a dramatic shift in their spending priorities. Most notably there is a shift away from footwear and apparel purchases (down 9 and 8 points respectively). Seventy-nine percent of consumers tell NPD that ‘value’ is the reason they buy something for back-to-school. Running a distant second is ‘required by school,’ at 45%. As consumers shift their purchasing behavior, they will also be shifting where they will shop. Indications are that department stores will take the hardest hit with 20% of consumers saying they will shop there, a 4% decline from last year. Office supply stores are consumers’ top shopping destination, with 82% of consumers saying they will shop there, followed by mass merchants/discounters at 42%. Chain stores come in third, with 29%. “Back-to-school will be a big indicator of the consumers’ psyche with regard to overall spending this year compared to last year. So far, we are seeing continued caution when it comes to spending. Consumers are clearly putting need over desire. They will be more highly influenced by value than by fashionable or trendy products,” concluded Cohen. Source: Research conducted by The NPD Group, August 11, 2009. Website: www.npd.com.