| NEW YORK, July 22
NEW YORK, July 22 U.S. parents with school-aged
children will spend more on back-to-school merchandise this year,
helped by tax rebates, but spending for back-to-college will fall
as students struggle with the spike in gas prices, according to a
survey released on Tuesday.
Families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade are
expected to spend $594.24 for back-to-school items this year, up
from $563.49 last year, according to the National Retail
Federation's 2008 back-to-school survey.
But back-to-college spending is forecast to drop 7 percent to
$599.38 per person from an average of $641.56 last year, the
"This year, college students have gotten a dose of reality,"
said NRF spokeswoman Ellen Davis. "Gas prices are way up. Many of
them did not get an economic stimulus check because their parents
claimed them as dependents, so they are having to find ways to cut
Electronics will be hit by the back-to-college pullback. The
survey found that college students expect to spend $211.89 on tech
gadgets for the new school year -- down 18 percent from $258.43 a
In recent years, college students used money from high school
graduation or cash from summer jobs to buy the latest electronics,
Davis said. But with the national average retail price for
gasoline surging roughly 40 percent this year, that cash is going
toward filling up the gas tank
"This year, you're really going to see the momentum in
electronics come from parents and younger children instead of the
college crowd," Davis said.
Parents with school-aged children are expected to spend
$151.61 on electronics for back-to-school, up from $129.24 last
year. Spending on clothing is forecast to rise to $234.51 from
$231.80, while spending on school supplies will increase to $98.47
from $94.02 last year.
To help support their spending, the survey found that
one-fifth of parents set aside a portion of their tax rebate check
for back-to-school purchases. The checks are part of Washington's
$152 billion 2008 economic stimulus package, and about 130 million
households are receiving some $100 billion in cash to spend.
CLOSELY WATCHED SEASON
This back-to-school season is being closely watched by
retailers. U.S. consumers, squeezed by surging food and fuel
prices and the crumbling housing market, have curbed purchases of
discretionary items like clothes and jewelry in favor of
necessities like food and toiletries.
"Retailers are looking at back-to-school and back-to-college
season more carefully because it will be a good indicator for the
(winter) holiday season in terms of what people are buying, what
kind of an appetite the customer has -- if they're really focused
on price, or if they can be persuaded by exclusive labels and
celebrity endorsements," Davis said.
Seventy-three percent of consumers intend to do their
back-to-school shopping at discount retailers. Almost 57 percent
said they will head to department stores, 48 percent will go to
clothing stores and 21.4 percent will go to electronic stores.
To offset high gasoline prices, 24.8 percent of back-to-school
shoppers said they will buy online, up from 21.4 percent last
The survey was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch. The poll of
8,361 consumers was conducted from July 1 until July 8.
The NRF said the back-to-college average consumer spending
figures differ from previous years because they exclude spending
on textbooks. The NRF said previous year figures have been
recalculated to account for the changes.
(Editing by Phil Berlowitz)