Near record U.S. back-to-school spending expected this year, survey says

July is half over, but the back-to-school shopping season has already begun.

Even so, many parents and college students say they are waiting for the best deals to complete their shopping lists, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Worthington-based Prosper Insights and Analytics.

Total spending for kindergarten through college is projected to reach USD 82.8 billion, just shy of last year’s record USD 83.6 billion.

“College spending is expected to be at its highest level ever, and back-to-school will be one of the three highest years on record,” said Matthew Shay, retail federation president and CEO.

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average USD 684.79 each, compared with last year’s USD 687.72 for a total of USD 27.5 billion. That is the third-highest total in the history of the survey following a peak of USD 30.3 billion in 2012 and last year’s USD 29.5 billion.

Families with children heading to college as well as college and graduate students who are paying for back-to-school needs themselves plan to spend an average USD 942.17 each, down from last year’s USD 969.88 for a total of USD 55.3 billion. Even so, that total is an all-time high in the history of the survey, up from last year’s previous record of USD 54.1 billion.

According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing, USD 236.90, followed by USD 187.10 on electronics such as computers, calculators or phones.

“The biggest change we are seeing in back-to-school spending this year is coming from electronics,” said Mark Mathews, the retail federation’s vice president for research. “Items like laptops, tablets and smartphones are now an everyday part of household life and aren’t necessarily a purchase parents save for the start of the school year.”

The top destinations for back-to-school items are department stores, at 57 %, followed by online retailers at 55 %, discount stores at 52 % and clothing stores at 51 %.