School Supply Prices on the Rise, Back to School Spending Down

The cost of outfitting children for their classes this fall has gone up by more than 7% from last year, writes Jane H. Cho of The Ohio Plain Dealer. In response, parents are being much more careful about their spending, taking money-savings steps like utilizing coupons and waiting for sales, as well as delaying some purchases until prices come down after the first day of school.

According to the National Retail Foundation, back-to-school spending is down by 8% as costs rise. Families with kids in primary and secondary schools, as well as those heading off to college, are scrutinizing their expenses and becoming savvier shoppers in response to the higher prices.

C. Britt Beemer, a consumer behavior consultant for America’s Research Group, Ltd, predicts that this combination of higher prices and more frugal behavior will spell a rather lackluster back-to-school season for retailers. The sales volume could drop anywhere between .5% and 2%.

“This year, 44 percent of parents told me they’re trying to do as little back-to-school shopping as possible and will try to finish it during the Christmas season,” he said. “Last year, 38 percent of parents said that, so it keeps getting bigger every year.”

“Shoes will be the No. 1 purchase, because parents will not send their children to school in shoes that are too small for their feet,” he added.

When parents were asked whether they planned to spend more on clothing or shoes, 26 percent said “shoes.” That percentage used to be in the single digits, but it, too, goes up every year, he said.

Higher prices are only one reason why parents are spending less. The continued fallout from the economic downturn has limited family budgets, too. According to Beemer, nearly 40% of parents said that they didn’t buy gifts for each other last Christmas in order to afford gifts for the kids, causing struggles for retailers and economic numbers to fall short of expectations.

The slowdown hasn’t reversed in the months since, as parents have been spending less throughout the year.

“Having splurged on their growing children’s needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season,” retail federation President and Chief Executive Matthew Shay said in a statement.

“As they continue to grapple with the impact of increasing payroll taxes, Americans will look to cut corners where they can, but will buy what their kids need.”

Eighty-one percent of parents surveyed said the economy is changing their spending plans, with 37 percent shopping around online and 19 percent planning to shop more often to take advantage of deals.

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