Back-to-School Spending Takes a Dip

Parents and their children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $543 on back-to-school items and double that ($1,223) on college shopping, a survey finds.

The amounts show spending is predicted to be about 13% less than last year, according to accounting firm Deloitte’s back-to-school and back-to-college surveys.

Those with students in college expect their children’s contribution towards school supplies to remain relatively steady ($436) compared with 2013 levels. Students in grades K-12 are expected to contribute a smaller amount ($173), according to the online surveys of 1,063 parents of school-aged children.

Survey organizers noted that back-to-school shopping is no longer a limited-time-only event. They also cited schools’ more generous furnishing of supplies, digital screens replacing pencils and notebooks, and the 24/7 availability of online shopping—combined to a lesser degree with an uneven economic recovery—as impacting spending. 

The list is all important, parents say. More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) shopping for children in grades K-12 say the school’s list, rather than their child’s requests, drives back-to-school purchases.

More than one in four (26%) parents expect to complete their shopping after the start of the school year. Online sites moved up to the second-favorite shopping destination, tied with office supply/technology stores and just behind discount/value department stores. Shoppers who prefer to buy from retailers that offer the option to buy online and pick up in the store increased this year to 40%, from 33% last year.

Among other findings:

  • Nearly three out of every five shoppers (57%) plan to do research online before buying in the physical store;
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents believe the economy is recovering but continue to spend cautiously; and
  • More than half (55%) of respondents are more concerned about protecting their personal data when shopping online than they were a year ago.