Back-to-school is big business

Shoppers buying supplies for school and college are expected to spend an overall $80.8 billion, according to a survey by National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics.

With the 2019-20 school year a few weeks away, families are beginning to purchase supplies.

According to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics annual survey, shoppers will spend an expected $80.7 billion is expected for back-to-school and back-to-college spending. Separately, back-to-school spending is expected to reach about $26.2 billion, while back-to-college shopping is expected to reach $54.5 billion.

Average spending is expected to increase this year. The average household plans to spend an average of $696.70 for K-12 children, and back-to-college shoppers plan to spend an average of $976.78.

That amount is up from last year’s average amounts of $684.79 for back-to-school shopping and $942.17 for college spending.

The next three weeks will be the peak for back-to-school shopping, said Brandon Pasch, director of back-to-school merchandising for Meijer.

About 71 percent of back-to-school shoppers and 61 percent of back-to-college shoppers plan to shop at least three weeks prior to the start of the school year.

As soon as lists are distributed, Muskegon residents Gloria and Bob Bilek begin shopping for supplies some of their grandchildren. They usually purchase supplies ranging from backpacks, lunchboxes, folders, and paper.

Gloria said she looks forward to the shopping every year, and her grandchildren always call to thank them.

“Their faces light up,” Bob said of his grandchildren receiving their backpacks and supplies.

Clothing and accessories are at the top of the expenses for K-12 families, with $239.82 an average spent, followed by electronics (such as computers, phones and calculators) at $203.44.

Pencils, pens, erasers, journals are among some of the top items shoppers look for, and there’s a large interest in personalized items, Pasch said. Some of the early selling items that have taken Meijer “by storm” include Texas Instruments calculator in mint and rose gold colors, which Pasch said are quickly selling out.

About 53 percent of shoppers plan to visit department stores, and 50 percent of shoppers plan to go to discount stores, and 45 percent expect to shop at clothing stores.

According to the survey, about 49 percent of shoppers plan to buy supplies online for, while 22 percent plan to head to electronics stores, and 31 percent plan to visit office supply stores.

About 16 percent of shoppers plan to visit local businesses, and 7 percent plan to visit thrift stores.

As families begin their shopping, Gloria and Bob Belik recommend people shop early if they’re looking for popular items.

“Go early. Don’t wait,’ Gloria said.

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