Spending on back to school merchandise this fall is expected to average $563.49, up 6.9 percent from last year's average of $527.08. Total back to school spending this year is expected to reach $18.4 billion.
This according to the National Retail Federation's 2007 Consumer Intentions and Actions Back to School survey, conducted by BIGresearch. The survey anticipates that the electronics category will see the biggest sales increase, with families spending 13 percent more (an average $129.24) on electronics than last year.
Footwear will also see a higher than average sales increase of 10.3 percent to $108.42 this year. Families are also expected to spend $94.02 on school supplies this season, up from an average of $86.22.
Though 95.4 percent of shoppers said they would be purchasing clothing and accessories this year, spending in that category is expected to be flat. This year's average clothing expenditure is pegged at $231.80, similar to last year's $228.14, although clothing and accessories remains the largest spending category at $7.6 billion.
"Electronics have evolved from luxuries to necessities, not only for college students, but also for their younger siblings," said Tracy Mullin, President and CEO of the NRF. "While some students may be pleading with mom and dad for an iPod or a cell phone, parents are also investing in desktop or laptop computers, educational software, and printers to support their children's learning."
As the internet continues to integrate itself into traditional shopping, more parents are expected to head online for back to school items. The percentage of parents who plan to purchase merchandise online is forecast to rise 40.8 percent to 21.4 percent this year.
Young parents between the ages of 18 and 34 indicated that they are the most likely to shop online for children's merchandise. Nearly a third of parents in that age group said they would use the web to find back to school items.
Though discounters are expected to remain the most popular destination for back to school shopping, fewer consumers plan to hit mass merchants this year.
All other categories are expected to see traffic increases. The percentage of families heading for office supply stores this year is 41.4 percent, versus 35.8 percent a year ago. At drug stores, the percentage is 17.9 percent, versus 16.3 percent, and department stores, 41.4 percent, versus 35.8 percent.
Tweens and teens are expecting to pull out their own wallets this year. According to the survey, parents said tweens would chip in an approximate average of $15.38 of their own money, while teenagers will spend, on average, $31.19.
Even if the children are not the ones spending the most money, they have quite a say in what is bought. Nearly two thirds of parents said their children influence at least half of the items that are purchased for back to school.
"Pre-teens and teenagers have a tremendous impact on their family's spending decisions," said Phil Rist, VP of Strategy for BIGresearch. "From backpacks to boots, parents often let their children choose which specific items to purchase, so retailers are marketing as much to kids as to their parents this year."
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