BTS Sales Predicted to Rise as Parents Replenish Children's Needs

Having outgrown shoes, shirts and even backpacks they've used the last two years, children heading back to school this year will arrive in style. The National Retail Federation's 2010 Consumer Intentions and Actions Back to School survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that the average American family will spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics, compared to $548.72 last year, and close to the $594.24 in 2008. Total spending on school-​aged children in grades K‑12 is expected to reach $21.35 billion.

Combined K‑12 and college spending will reach $55.12 billion, serving as the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.

"We are encouraged by the fact that parents are eager to start their back to school shopping this year, but the industry still remains cautiously optimistic about recovery," said NRF President and CEO Matt Shay. "As the second half of the year gets under way, retailers will gauge their customers' spending appetites, which often serve as a bellwether for the all-​important holiday season."

There remains no question that the economy will continue to play a role in American families' back to school preparations. This year's survey found that 44.3% of Americans will buy more store brand or generic products, compared to 41.7% in 2009. Additionally, more parents will comparative shop online (30.3% vs. 26.4% in 2009.) The state of the economy will also impact some families' lifestyles, such as deciding whether their child should attend public or private school (8.1% vs. 5.7% in 2009).

Most families agree that growing children means growing apparel budgets. Spending on apparel will take up the majority of consumers' budgets with the average family of school-​aged kids expected to spend $225.47 on jeans, shirts and other types of clothing. Running the gamut from laptops and net books to smart phones and MP3 players, parents are expected to spend an average of $181.60 on their children's electronic or computer-​related school needs. Families will also spend an average of $102.93 on shoes and $96.39 on school supplies.

As far as where families will shop this year, seven in 10 (71.2%) will head to a discount store and more than half (53.9%) will visit their favorite department store. Other popular shopping destinations include clothing stores (49.0%), electronics stores (23.0%), office supply stores (41.2%), drug stores (19.5%) and thrift stores (17.0%). Whether to save a few bucks and compare prices or simply because of the convenience, more people will shop online this year (30.8% vs. 22.2% last year.)

"Many of today's shoppers are smarter than any other generation before them, especially when it comes to finding the best price," said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. "The affordability of online shopping gives parents an extra edge over the sometimes expensive back-​to-​school shopping season with price comparison options, free shipping offers and even coupons."

The survey found that teenagers and pre-​teens will dish out more of their own money for apparel, supplies and accessories this year. Teenagers are expected to shell out an average of $31.74 for school items, up slightly from $30.88 last year. Pre-​teens will spend an average of $18.27, up from $11.94 in 2009.  When it comes to how much say children have in parents' buying decisions, six in 10 adults (61.1%) say their children influence 50% or more of their back-​to-​school purchases.

Nearly half (47.6%) will begin their shopping three weeks to one month before school starts and one-​quarter (24.8%) will start one to two weeks before school begins. Some will get a jump start and begin shopping two months before the new school year (21.6%). Three percent (3.0%) will wait until the week school starts or even after school begins.

[Source:  2010 Consumer Intentions and Actions Back to School Survey.  BIGresearch/​National Retail Federation (NRF). 15 Jul. 2010.  Web.  23 Jul. 2010.]