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Spending on Dorm Furnishings, Electronics Drives Back-to-College Sales Past $31 Billion

*This press release was revised on July 21, 2008 to exclude textbook spending.

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For Immediate Release

Kathy Grannis or Scott Krugman (202) 783-7971
grannisk@nrf.com or krugmans@nrf.com

Spending on Dorm Furnishings, Electronics
Drives Back-to-College Sales Past $31 Billion

Washington, August 14, 2007 – The temperature is not the only thing rising these days, as students and families are expected to spend $31.7 billion* gearing up for college. According to NRF’s 2007 Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, students and their parents will spend a combined average of $641.56 on back-to-college merchandise, up from last year’s $598.92.

“Because the college years are an important time for young adults to express their individuality, retailers will pull out all the stops to catch students’ attention,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Colored laptops, stylish cell phones and distinctive dorm furniture will appeal to today’s students and should be big sellers in retail stores across the country.”

As the summer winds down, parents and their college-age children will hit the stores to stock up on essentials for dorm living. Spending on clothing and accessories is expected to jump to $7.41 billion from last year’s $5.78 billion. Laptops, digital cameras, along with iPhones and other cell phones, should be big sellers again this year, with students and their parents expected to spend a total of $12.8 billion on electronics. Other essentials for college students include shoes ($2.96 billion) and school supplies such as notebooks, folders and pencils ($3.14 billion).

Thanks to trendy in-store promotions and youth-focused merchandise, dorm and apartment furnishings are now becoming increasingly important to students. Spending in this category is expected to reach $5.43 billion, up from last year’s $3.82 billion. Young adults aged 18-24 will shell out the most in this category, spending an average of $158.61. 

The large majority (57.2%) of students and their families will be shopping at college bookstores, while others will head to discounters (51.5%), department stores (41.8%), office supply stores (35.6%), clothing stores (34.3%) and electronics stores (20.9%). Nearly one-third of consumers plan to shop online for back-to-college necessities.

“For today’s students, spending on college-related merchandise is as much of a necessity as wearing a business suit for a job interview,” stated BIGresearch Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist. “With other consumers worrying about the stock market and interest rates, retailers are smart to focus on a group that needs to buy because of a life stage event.”

When it comes to a student’s living situation, half of those polled (49.7%) said they would be living at home during the school year, while more than one-fourth (28.6%) will live in off-campus housing, one-fifth (18.7%) will stay in a dormitory  or other type of college housing and a small fraction (1.3%) will live in a fraternity or sorority house. Students living on-campus will outspend others by a wide margin as dorm dwellers are expected to spend $1,078.14 on college merchandise, double what students living at home will spend ($490.74) and also substantially more than students living off-campus ($790.78).

Freshmen, many with gift cards and cash from graduation gifts, will spend the most this year ($838.92). Sophomores, with an average of $453.31, are expected to spend the least.

About the Survey

The NRF 2007 Back-to-College Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the Back to School season. The survey, which polled 7,710 consumers, was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from August 1-7. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch’s syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 7,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 23 million employees – about one in five American workers – and 2006 sales of $4.7 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com


* Figure indicates total extrapolation of U.S. population of adults 18+