Back-to-School Spending to Top $18 Billion

July 18, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Retail & E-Commerce | Youth & Gen X

Families with school-age children are expected to spend, on average, $563.49 on back-to-school merchandise this year, up 6.9% from last year’s $527.08 average – and total back-to-school spending is expected to reach $18.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) 2007 Consumer Intentions and Actions Back-to-School Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

Some data from the study:

  • Sales in the electronics category will gain most this year, with families spending 13.0% more on electronics than last year ($129.24 vs. $114.38).
  • Footwear will also undergo a higher-than-average sales increase, with sales expected to rise 10.3% over last year ($108.42 vs. $98.34).
  • Families are also expected to spend $94.02 on school supplies, up from $86.22 a year ago.
  • The majority of shoppers will be purchasing clothing and accessories this year (95.4%), and clothing and accessories remains the largest spending category at $7.6 billion.
  • Clothing and accessories spending is expected to be flat, with consumers spending an average of $231.80 on those purchases, similar to last year’s $228.14.


  • The number of parents who plan to purchase merchandise online this year is expected to increase 40.8%, from 15.2% of parents last year to 21.4% this year.
  • Young parents between the ages of 18-34 are the most likely to shop online for children’s merchandise, with nearly one-third of them planning to use the web to find back-to-school items.
  • Though discounters will remain the most popular destination for back-to-school shopping, fewer consumers plan to hit mass merchants this year: 67.6% of parents plan to shop at discount stores, compared with 72.2% last year.
  • All other store categories are expected to undergo traffic increase: Consumers say they will be shopping more at office supplies stores (41.4% vs. 35.8% last year), drug stores (17.9% vs. 16.3%), department stores (54.9% vs. 53.3%) and specialty stores (31.6% vs. 30.9%).
  • Pre-teens and teenagers will be chipping in, according to parents: Pre-teens will pony up approximately $15.38 of their own money for back-to-school items; teenagers will spend, on average, $31.19 of their own money.
  • Nearly two-thirds of parents say their children influence at least half of the back-to-school items purchased.


  • The majority of consumers (45.2%) plan to begin their shopping three weeks to one month before school starts; 32% will begin one to two weeks before; 14.6% will begin at least two months before the start of school; and 5.4% will wait until the week before school begins. Only 2.7% will wait until after school starts to do their shopping.

June Sales Slowed Down

Earlier this month, the NRF reported that retailers posted modest sales gains in June (excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) – up 3.4% unadjusted over last year, but down 0.5% seasonally adjusted from May.

June retail sales released by the US Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) decreased 0.9% seasonally adjusted from the previous month and increased 3.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

Some category details from June:

  • Health and personal care store sales increased 1.2% seasonally adjusted over May and a solid 6.7% unadjusted from last June.
  • General merchandise store sales increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 5.3% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessories store sales decreased 1.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 4.9% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • The electronics and appliances category also posted mixed results with sales decreasing 1.4% from May and increasing a modest 1.4% unadjusted from last June.
  • The weak housing market hit furniture and home furnishings stores and building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers the hardest:
    • Sales decreased 3.0% from May and 1.4% unadjusted year-over-year at furniture and home furnishings stores.
    • Sales decreased 2.3% seasonally adjusted from last month and 2.6% unadjusted over last June at building materials stores.

About the survey: The NRF 2007 Back-to-School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to back-to-school. The poll of 8,290 consumers was conducted July 3-10, 2007.

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