Record back-to-school spending is predicted this year. Retailers, are you ready?

By Rieva Lesonsky

Amidst some dire news about the state of retail, the back-to-school shopping season should give retailers a boost. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, total spending for school and college combined is projected to reach $83.6 billion, an increase of more than 10% from last year’s $75.8 billion. In fact, back-to-college spending is expected to hit an all-time high this year, while overall back-to-school spending is expected to see its second-highest spending level on record.

“With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more, and we are optimistic they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year,” says NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Research firm NPD Group says most of this back-to-school shopping will take place in August.

If you sell products typically bought for back-to-school, I’m assuming you planned for this season months ago. If you want to check your inventory, here’s what NPD Group says will be hot:

K-12 Spending

  • Fashion (clothing, shoes, accessories)
  • School supplies and accessories
  • Art supplies
  • Electronics

College Spending

  • School supplies
  • Fashion (clothing, shoes, accessories)
  • Bedding, bath and storage
  • Personal care and grooming
  • Electronics

Backing this up, the NRF survey says back-to-school shoppers plan to spend $10.2 billion on clothing, $8.8 billion on electronics such as computers or calculators, $5.6 billion on shoes and $4.9 billion on school supplies (such as notebooks, folders, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes).

College consumers, says the survey, will spend $12.8 billion on electronics, $8 billion on clothing, $7.5 billion on snacks and other food items, $5.9 billion on dorm/apartment furnishings, $4.5 billion on shoes, $4.5 billion on personal care items, $3.9 billion on school supplies, $3.9 billion on gift cards and $3.2 billion on branded collegiate gear.


Plus, the NRF survey says, 65% of back-to-school shoppers report half or more of their purchases are a direct result of their children’s influence, up from 57% last year.