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Spending on Back to College Merchandise to Increase Slightly

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Read press release for K-12 spending

For Immediate Release
Kathy Grannis (202)783-7971

Spending on Back to College Merchandise to Increase Slightly
More College Students Fly the Coup After Two Years With Mom and Dad

While spending on school items for K-12 students is expected to increase this year, spending on college-specific items will remain similar to last year. NRF’s 2010 Back to College Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found the average college student’s family will spend $616.13 on new apparel, furniture for dorms or apartments, school supplies and electronics. Students and their families spent only slightly more last year ($618.12). Total spending on back to college merchandise is expected to reach $33.77 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. 

“This year, parents will make sure to shop smart, stocking up on necessities like gift cards, apparel and personal care items for their everyday needs,” said NRF President and CEO Matt Shay. “Some families may not have the luxury of providing extra spending cash for their child throughout the year, so preparing ahead of time will at least guarantee their child has the essentials.”

College students and their families will spend the most on electronics, though not nearly as much as last year. The average family will shell out $236.94 on computers, cell phones, MP3 players, cameras and other electronics; down from the $266.08 estimated last year when spending on electronics reached an all-time high. Other expenditures include shoes ($62.20), collegiate branded gear or supplies ($36.26) and school supplies ($62.91). College students will spend significantly more on dorm or apartment furnishings this year, signaling a change from last year when more students lived at home to save their family money. Families are expected to dish out an average of $96.94 on bedding, microwaves, small refrigerators and chairs, up from $80.06 last year.

The survey found that just over half (51.8%) of college students will live with mom and dad, down from 58.5 percent who lived at home last year when money was tighter and jobs were more scarce. That being said, those planning on living at home encompass more than any other group. Nearly one-quarter (23.0%) will live off campus in an apartment or house, 18.8 percent will live in a dorm room or other college housing and 2.0 percent will go Greek and live in a sorority or fraternity house.
“As more students fly the coop this year, some retailers can expect a nice boost in the home furnishings and accents departments,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “Smart retailers would stage merchandise mom and dad would like near the Back to College aisles to boost parent impulse purchases while shopping with their college-bound children.”

When asked how the state of the U.S. economy will impact their back to college purchases, 34.1 percent of families responded they would buy more store brand or generic products, up from 32.5 percent last year. Families will also shop online more often (18.2%) or share or borrow textbooks instead of buying new ones (19.3%). One in five (20.6%) said their back to college plans will not change. 

Most college students (53.8%) will buy what they need from discount stores, 42.5 percent will head to department stores and more than one-third (36.5%) will shop at office supply stores. Other popular shopping destinations will include online (28.6%), clothing stores (28.2%), electronics stores (18.0%) or drug stores (17.0%). Forty-three percent are planning on buying décor, apparel or other items school from their college bookstore. 

The survey found one-third (33.1%) of college shoppers will begin hitting the stores one month before school starts, with 23.2 percent preferring to wait a bit longer and go one to two weeks before school starts. One in five (20.2%) will start at least two months before school starts, 12.6 percent will wait until the week school starts and 10.9 percent will go after they’ve already started school. 

About the Survey

NRF’s 2010 Back to School and Back to College Consumer Intentions and Actions Surveys were designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to back to school spending and back to college spending. The surveys were conducted for NRF by BIGresearch. The poll of 9009 consumers was conducted from June 30 – July 7, 2010. The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.
BIGresearch® consumer intelligence provides analysis of behavior in areas of products and services, retail, financial services, automotive and media. The BIGresearch Consumer Intentions and Actions® Survey (CIATM) of 8,000+ respondents is conducted monthly and the Simultaneous Media Usage® Survey (SIMM®) of 15,000+ respondents is conducted semi-annually. 

As the world's largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, the National Retail Federation's global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the U.S. and more than 45 countries abroad.  In the U.S., NRF represents the breadth and diversity of an industry with more than 1.6 million American companies that employ nearly 25 million workers and generated 2009 sales of $2.3 trillion. www.nrf.com


*  Extrapolation of U.S. population of adults 18+