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Top of the Class: Back-to-School Shopping

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The ICSC Back-to-School survey conducted just two weeks is getting good grades.

The organization, formerly known as the International Council of Shopping Centers, reports that 48% of all U.S. adults will buy back-to-school (BTS) merchandise this year.

While shopping is already underway, don’t worry, the ICSC survey says more than 42% of back-to-school purchases will happen in August.

The top items on BTS shopping lists are apparel/footwear (88%) and school supplies (86%). The highest spend will be on electronics ($334).

Overall, consumers plan to spend an average of $911, with 81% of people saying that’s more than they spent last year. Most shoppers (90%) are aware that inflation is impacting prices, and 91% will base their purchasing decisions on promotions.

If you sell BTS merchandise, don’t forget the kids. About 70% of those surveyed say their children “have significant influence over back-to-school purchases and are allowed to mostly choose the style of whatever supplies they need.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights have also released their BTS annual survey, revealing that, due to inflation, 38% of consumers are cutting spending in other areas to cover the costs of BTS shopping. And reflecting the ICSC findings, consumers surveyed by the NRF expect to spend more per person on K-12 and college goods.

BTS shopping is second only to the winter holiday shopping season, according to NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. The NRF projects that total K-12 spending will at least match last year’s record-setting $37 billion.

Back-to-college spending is expected to hit a record-setting $74 billion. The NRF says that since 2019, back-to-college spending is up $19 billion—and nearly half of the increase is from spending on electronics and dorm or apartment furnishings.

The NRF survey also indicates there’s plenty of shopping left to do, and many consumers are waiting for the best deals.

Back-to-school stock image by Chanintorn.v/Shutterstock

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