Consumers expect to spend more this year on back-to-school apparel, accessories and school supplies but, as they did last year, will start their shopping a little later, according to a survey conducted by The NPD Group Inc.

This story first appeared in the July 25, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The survey also revealed that consumers intend to shop more at department and specialty stores this year than they did in 2011, while their online shopping is expected to be at the same level.

The poll, conducted among 2,500 consumers ages 18 and over, showed that 31 percent intend to spend more for b-t-s (versus 22 percent a year ago); 24 percent said they would spend less (versus 38 percent a year ago) and 46 percent said they would spend at the same level as last year (versus 40 percent a year ago). Some 37 percent of respondents said they would start their b-t-s shopping by Aug. 1, while 58 percent said they would start shopping by Sept. 1.

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“Retailers should plan to see a rise in sales when the temperature drops,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD. “The summer heat wave in much of the country is a possible contributor to the delay in back-to-school shopping.

“There’s a pretty decent anticipation for a better-than-expected back-to-school season,” added Cohen. “Every retailer won’t feel it, but they’ll have to earn it.”

Even though shoppers plan to spend more, the type of retail outlets they intend to shop in has shifted. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they intend to shop in department stores, compared with 20 percent last year. Twenty-five percent said they would shop in footwear specialty stores, versus 18 percent a year ago. The respondents’ intention to shop online remained the same at 16 percent. Fifteen percent said they would shop at apparel specialty stores, compared with 13 percent a year ago. Thirteen percent said they would shop at warehouse clubs, versus 14 percent last year. Seven percent said they would shop at sporting goods stores, compared with 4 percent a year ago. And 3 percent of the shoppers intended to buy from catalogues, versus 5 percent a year ago.

Of the b-t-s categories they intend to purchase, the overwhelming majority — 78 percent — said they would buy school supplies, compared with 77 percent last year. Sixty-two percent said they would buy apparel, versus 58 percent a year ago. Fifty-five percent said they would buy footwear, compared with 45 percent a year ago. The other categories in which consumers plan to allocate their budgets:

• Electronics, 26 percent (versus 27 percent last year).

• Apparel accessories, 19 percent (versus 17 percent last year).

• Calculators, 11 percent (versus 8 percent last year).

• Sports equipment, 6 percent (versus 3 percent last year).

According to Cohen, the apparel categories he expects to get a “nice little boost” are jeans, sports-influenced apparel, knits, shorts and activewear. In addition, bright-colored running shoes and bright and bold backpacks, with places to put technology, should do well for b-t-s.

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