Back-to-school spending could hit record during pandemic: NRF

Customers buy back-to-school supplies at a Target Corp. store in Colma, California.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | fake pictures

Parents may not yet know if their children will be sitting in a classroom or at the dining room table when classes resume later this year.

But after many schools were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic in the spring, they’re undoubtedly looking at supplies for back to school a little differently in 2020.

The result of the change: Spending is forecast to hit a record this back-to-school season as parents stock up on expensive technology like laptops, tablets, and headsets.

Parents of elementary to high school kids plan to spend an average of $ 789.49 per family, beating a previous record of $ 696.70, the National Retail Federation found in its annual survey. 7,481 consumers were surveyed from July 1 to 8. Total back-to-school spending is expected to reach $ 33.9 billion, compared to $ 26.2 billion in 2019 and breaking a previous record of $ 30.3 billion in 2012, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, spending on college students is expected to be $ 1,059.20 per family, which would break last year’s record of $ 976.78. NRF forecasts that total spending back to college will amount to $ 67.7 billion, which would break the 2018 record.

“By any measure, this is an unprecedented year with great uncertainty, including how students will get their education this fall, whether they are in kindergarten or college,” said NRF chief executive, Matt Shay, in a statement. He added that parents are navigating uncertainty by making sure students are prepared with the right tools if learning is forced online.

School-age children working from home during the Coronavirus Lockdown on April 6, 2020 in New York, NY.

Peter Titmuss | Educational images | fake pictures

Fifty-five percent of consumers surveyed by NRF said they expect to take “at least some” home classes this fall. And of those who expect to be home, 72% plan to buy electronics like laptops and home furnishings like desks, items considered non-traditional school supplies.

Overall, 63% of K-12 families plan to buy computers and other electronic devices this year, compared to 54% in 2019. For college students, 60% of them plan to buy electronic products, compared to the 53% a year ago.

As more parents plan to shop online this back-to-school season, traditional destinations like department stores and clothing stores could be affected. For NR-12, only 37% of parents plan to go to the department store, NRF found, compared to 53% a year ago. And only 30% plan to visit clothing stores, compared to 45% in 2019.

A Deloitte survey released earlier this month found that 66% of parents are eager to send their children to the classroom again this fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anxiety finds its origin in several different places: Some parents worry that their children will fall behind academically. There are also health and safety concerns, and financial concerns. 38 percent of people indicated “great financial concern” regarding the upcoming school season, Deloitte said. The unemployment rate in the United States is currently 11.1%, with millions out of work.

Read the full NRF back-to-school survey here.