NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. shoppers plan to spend more on jeans, backpacks and laptops this back-to-school season, as more children enroll in school; parents restock supplies after cutting back last year; and apparel prices rise, a survey by the National Retail Federation found.
Parents are still worried about the weak economy they feel the need to restock school supplies after cutting back last year, the trade group said. It also noted that more children will enter elementary and middle school this fall.
Families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade are expected to spend $688.62 on average for back-to-school items this year, up from $603.63 last year, according to NRF's back-to-school survey released on Thursday.
"People have put some of these things off as long as they can," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay told Reuters, adding that back-to-school sales have been flat in the past couple of years.
"This is not discretionary, this is really mandatory," Shay said. "Parents are going to do whatever they need to."
The expected spending bump will give some solace to U.S. retailers counting on the second-biggest selling season of the year for a much-needed sales boost after months of lackluster sales in the stagnant U.S. economy.
Even though American shoppers intend to spend more, stores will still have to work to woo them, since parents plan to shop for discounts and cut back on children's extracurricular activities.
Some 84.8 percent of parents with school-aged children said the state of the economy will affect their spending plans in some way, down slightly from 86.1 percent last year.
A higher number of cost-conscious Americans plan to do more back-to-school shopping online. About 17.9 percent of survey participants said they plan to shop online more often this season versus 15.3 percent last year.
Many also are more inclined to comparison shop online, Shay pointed out. About 32.1 percent of survey participants plan to comparison shop online versus 29.8 percent last year.
Parents estimate they will spend an average of $246.10 on clothes and $217.88 on electronics this year, up from estimates of $220.60 on clothes and $189.51 on electronics last year.
Parents are spending on older children as well.
College students and their families will spend an average of $907.22 on everything from dorm furniture to electronics to personal care items, up from $808.71 last year, according to NRF's 2012 back-to-college survey.
Total back-to-college spending is expected to reach $53.5 billion, while total back-to-school spending is expected to touch $30.3 billion. All told, the return to school serves as the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.
The surveys were conducted for NRF by BIGinsight. The poll of 8,509 consumers was conducted from July 2 to July 9.
Reporting By Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by David Gregorio