Four Out of Five Americans Say Economy Affecting Back-to-School, College Plans

The rules of back-to-school shopping have officially changed: buy only what you need, check for coupons and sales before hitting the stores, and, if you can find the perfect computer at the right price, grab it!

According to the National Retail Federation's 2009 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the average family with students in grades Kindergarten through 12 is expected to spend $548.72 on school merchandise, a decline of 7.7 percent from $594.24 in 2008. Total spending on back to school is expected to reach $17.42 billion.*

2009 back-to-college and back-to-school spending combined will total $47.50 billion.

According to the survey, the economy is having a major impact on back-to-school spending as four out of five Americans (85 percent) have made some changes to back-to-school plans this year as a result. Some of those changes impact spending, with 56.2 percent of back-to-school shoppers hunting for sales more often, 49.6 percent planning to spend less overall, 41.7 percent purchasing more store brand/generic products and 40.0 percent planning to increase their use of coupons. Others say the economy has impacted lifestyle decisions, with 11.4 percent saying children will cut back on extracurricular activities or sports and 5.7 percent saying that the economy is impacting whether their children will attend a private or public school.

"The economy has clearly changed the spending habits of American families, which will likely create a difficult back-to-school season for retailers," said Tracy Mullin, President and CEO of NRF. "As people focus primarily on price, strong promotions and deep discounts will ultimately win over back-to-school shoppers this year."

Spending in most back-to-school categories is expected to decrease, with the one bright spot being electronics. According to the survey, the average family plans to spend $167.84 on electronics purchases, compared to $151.61 last year. Families will also spend an average of $204.67 on clothing and accessories, $93.59 on shoes, and $82.62 on school supplies.

Discount stores (74.5 percent) will be the most popular destination for back-to-school shoppers, followed by drug stores (21.5 percent), while more than half of back-to-school shoppers will head to department stores (54.4 percent) and nearly half (48.4 percent) will shop at a clothing store. Additionally, 22.2 percent will shop online, 20.8 percent will shop at electronics stores and 18.2 percent will shop at a thrift store.

"Americans will be looking far and wide for the best back-to-school deals, using newspaper ads, online promotion codes, and a lot of comparison shopping before making decisions," said Phil Rist, executive vice president, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. "This year, many parents hope to begin back-to-school shopping early to spread the spending out over a longer period of time."

To read more survey results, visit:
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