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Survey: Back-to-school shopping beginning earlier than before

The back-to-school shopping season keeps kicking in earlier and earlier.

Most back-to-school shoppers (77%) plan to start at least three weeks before school begins, up from last year’s 74% and 64% a decade ago, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics. And sixty-seven of college shoppers will start that early.

Total spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion, nearly as high as last year’s $83.6 billion. Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $684.79 each, compared with last year’s $687.72 for a total of $27.5 billion. It is the third-highest total in the history of the survey following a peak of $30.3 billion in 2012 and last year’s $29.5 billion.

Families with young people heading to college as well as college and graduate students purchasing for themselves plan to spend a total of $55.3 billion. That’s an all-time high in the history of the survey, up from last year’s previous record of $54.1 billion.

According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing ($236.90), followed by electronics ($187.10) and shoes ($138.66).

“The biggest change we are seeing in back-to-school spending this year is coming from electronics,” NRF VP for research Mark Mathews. “Items like laptops, tablets and smartphones are now an everyday part of household life and aren’t necessarily a purchase parents save for the start of the school year, resulting in the slight decrease in spending for this category.”

Unlike back-to-schoolers, college shoppers will spend the most on electronics ($229.21), followed by clothing and accessories ($153.32) and dorm or apartment furnishings ($109.29).

The top destinations for back-to-school items are:

  • Department stores (57%)

  • Online retailers (55%)

  • Discount stores (52%)

  • Clothing stores (51%)

  • Office supply stores (35%)

The most popular shopping destinations for back-to-college consumers are:

  • Online retailers (49%)

  • Department stores (40%)

  • Discount stores (35%)

  • Office supply stores (31%)

  • College bookstores (30%)

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