NRF Survey Indicates Drop in B-T-S Spending

Back-to-school spending on school merchandise is expected to decline 7.7% from $594.24 in 2008 to $548.72 this season for the average family with students in grades Kindergarten through 12, according to the National Retail Federation's 2009 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

WASHINGTON — Back-to-school spending on school merchandise is expected to decline 7.7% from $594.24 in 2008 to $548.72 this season for the average family with students in grades Kindergarten through 12, according to the National Retail Federation's 2009 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

According to the survey, the economy is having a major impact on back-to-school spending as four out of five Americans (85%) have made some changes to back-to-school plans this year. Some of those changes impact spending, with 56.2% of back-to-school shoppers hunting for sales more often, 49.6% planning to spend less overall, 41.7% purchasing more store brand/generic products and 40% planning to increase their use of coupons.

Others say the economy has impacted lifestyle decisions, with 11.4% saying children will cut back on extracurricular activities or sports and 5.7% 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 chief executive officer of NRF, based here. "As people focus primarily on price, strong promotions and deep discounts will ultimately win over back-to-school shoppers this year."

While discount stores (74.5%) will be the most popular destination for back-to-school shoppers, the number of people planning to buy school items at drug stores is expected to rise substantially. According to the survey, nearly a quarter (21.5%) of families will shop at drug stores for back–to-school, an 18% increase over last year's 18.2%. Drug stores have become more popular recently as their merchandise mix has broadened beyond health and beauty products to include school supplies, small electronics, and even groceries.

In addition to discounters and drug stores, more than half of back-to-school shoppers will head to department stores (54.4%), nearly half (48.4%) will shop at a clothing store and 41.2% will visit office supply stores. Additionally, 22.2% will shop online, 20.8% will shop at electronics stores and 18.2% will shop at a thrift store.

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