Total back-to-school, back-to-college spending to reach $72.5B

FRESH START: Ferris State University senior Kandice Olthof (back) and her mother, Audrey, pick out supplies for the coming school year at Staples on Thursday. (Pioneer photos/Lauren Fitch)

Survey says parents will spend average of $635 per child on back-to-school shopping

MECOSTA COUNTY — Nacole Shafer checked items off a list from her daughter’s teacher as she placed school supplies in her shopping cart on Friday.

Picking up folders, notebooks and such was the second phase of Shafer’s back-to-school shopping for her two children who attend Reed City Area Public Schools. They went shopping for new clothes a couple of weeks ago.

“I just watch for a sale,” she said, estimating she spends about $200 per child on back-to-school items each year, more than $400 less than the national average amount spent per student.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey, families with school-age children will spend an average of $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics this year, down from $688.62 last year. Total spending on back-to-school and back-to-college is is expected to reach $72.5 billion.

BACK TO CLASS: Max Wolfgang, a student who is transferring to Ferris for the 2013-14 academic year, picks out folders at Walmart on Friday. The National Retail Federation back-to-school survey says families will spend an average of $634.78 on back-to-school shopping this fall.

“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release. “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. As they continue to grapple with the impact of increased payroll taxes, Americans will look to cut corners where they can, but will buy what their kids need. It’s important to note, however, that spending levels are still well above where they were a few years ago.”

The biggest portion of back-to-school shoppers’ budgets will go toward new apparel and accessories, according to the survey. The vast majority of families with school-age children, 95.3 percent, will spend an average of $230.85 on fall sweaters, denim and other chic pieces of attire. Additionally, families will spend $114.39 on shoes and $90.49 on school supplies.

Families that are going to invest in a new tablet or smartphone are going to spend slightly less than last year ($199.05 versus $217.88 in 2012).

2013 School supply trends

Walmart Corporate issued a press release outlining the top trends for its school supplies this year, which include:

  • Neon
  • Monsters University
  • Teen Beach Movie
  • One Direction
  • Team gear
  • Duck Dynasty

Stephanie Moore, a second-year Ferris State University student, dedicates the majority of her back-to-school budget to textbooks, which cost her $350 this year.

“They’re so expensive. I just spent $200 on two books,” she said. Moore plans to spend less on school supplies this year than she did last year because is re-using some of her items.

“I just buy the essential things I need,” she said. “I don’t buy extras.”

BUDGETING EXPENSES: Brad Root (center), of Lakeview, shops for a dry erase board with his mother, Teresa Kohler, and brother, Brock Kohler, at Walmart on Friday. Root is a Ferris students, and he said he is spending more money on items for his room than he did last year.

Ferris sophomore Brad Root, from Lakeview, also hopes to spend less while school shopping this year.

“Last year, I had to buy my laptop. This year, it’s stuff for my room,” he said, estimating he will spend $300 on school supplies, food and home accessories.

Dennis Militello, manager of Staples in Big Rapids, said this past week and next week are the busiest times for people buying school supplies.

Staples offers a reward program where teachers earn points to gain a certain percentage back on purchases of school supplies. A new extension of that program now allows parents to register with a certain classroom so their purchases also contribute points toward that teacher’s account.

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