NRF: BTS shoppers this year focused on value, will make purchases later

Sales expected to be flat this year

WASHINGTON — Expect flat back-to-school sales this year as parents continue to be cautious with their spending, the National Retail Federation found in its latest survey.

In its back-to-school survey, conducted by BIGresearch, NRF found that consumers are purchasing more store-brand or generic items (39.9%), comparison shopping more online (29.8%) and shopping for sales (50%). Additionally, nearly half of survey respondents said the economy is forcing them to simply spend less in general (43.7%).

Breaking down where BTS shopping budgets are being spent: Average spending on clothing ($220.60) and school supplies ($88.99) will slightly decrease this year, while families also will spend an average of $104.53 on shoes, a slight increase over last year.

As for where families will be shopping, NRF found that this year's go-to destination will be department stores, with 57% of shoppers saying that they will head to a department store, up from 53.9% last year, and the most in the survey’s eight-year history. Though the majority of back-to-school shoppers planned to make at least one purchase from a discount store (68.4%), clothing (48.7%), office supply (38%) and electronics stores (21.7%) also will be popular.

Additionally, more people this year will shop online (31.7% versus 30.8% last year) and in drug stores (21.1% versus 19.5% last year).

NRF added that survey results indicated that most families will do their back-to-school shopping closer to the start of the school year. While most families will begin shopping three weeks to one month before school starts (42.4%), nearly one-third (31.2%) will begin their shopping one to two weeks before school starts — up from one-quarter (24.8%) last year. Some will get a jump start and begin shopping two months before the new school year (21.8%), and the remainder will shop the week school starts (2%) or after school starts (2.6%).

“Families aren’t opposed to spending on what they need, but parents want their children to take a good look around at what they already have before deciding what to buy for back to school this year,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers understand consumers are extremely focused on value and are taking this opportunity to offer substantial savings on merchandise.”

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