There’s evidence mounting that parents aren’t really crimping on back-to-school spending for their kids, even if they’re spending less elsewhere.
Overall, 48 percent of adults in the U.S. will buy items for the 2022 b-t-s season, spending an average of $911 on related items, according to a survey of 1,008 U.S. adults by the ICSC conducted online from July 13 to 15. That compares to an estimated $954 spent on b-t-s last year, showing that despite inflation and fears the economy will get worse as the year progresses, spending on clothes and supplies for school kids hasn’t taken a dive.
“I am very encouraged to see these numbers,” said Stephanie Cegielski, ICSC’s vice president of research and public relations. “We weren’t certain how the survey would come out. It looks like it will be a strong back-to-school season. It’s not a strong indicator of the holiday season, but it’s an indicator of the next five months.”
ICSC asked questions of parents buying for their children in grades kindergarten to 12 and in college.
ICSC’s optimism on back-to-school is consistent with upbeat reports from other sources, such as the National Retail Federation, which in mid-July also indicated parents are not crimping on b-t-s spending, estimating an average family spend of $864 on school items. According to KPMG’s 2022 back-to-school consumer pulse, 56 percent of U.S. consumers plan to spend more on the season this year, a reflection of rising product costs. However, estimates among organizations and retail experts can vary widely due to differences in categories being monitored and whether spending for K through 12, college or both population segments are being measured.
“We asked consumers when they were starting their shopping for back-to-school. Almost all said they began in June and would end it in September,” Cegielski said.
“The season is a little bit more extended. It’s been that way the last couple of years as parents navigate the pandemic, a little bit like the holiday season, which we also see getting longer and longer each year.”
Families were taking advantage of Amazon Prime Day and similar promotions by other major retailers in July to shop for both b-t-s and Christmas, Cegielski said.
Asked if b-t-s is a barometer for predicting holiday sales, Cegielski said, “Retail sales overall are probably the better barometer.” In 2022 so far, “We have seen year-over-year sales have been strong, upward of 9 percent, but that increase is due to inflation. So really sales are flat. But people still want to spend and have a lot of savings. They’re still willing to spend and pay the higher prices.”
ICSC at the beginning of this year forecasted that retail sales would grow 5.9 percent for 2022. “I do believe that currently retail sales, year-over-year, absent of inflation are flat, and with inflation you are seeing year-over-year growth closer to that 9 percent.”
According to ICSC’s survey, 55 percent of shoppers for b-t-s will be going to discount stores, such as Walmart or a dollar store; 58 percent said Amazon. “Those were the two top places to shop because people are just being very price conscious,” said Cegielski.
The ICSC is a trade organization for malls, lifestyle centers, outlet centers and other types of venues where people work, shop, dine and play. In other ICSC findings:
- Apparel/footwear and school supplies are the two most popular categories to shop, but electronics is the category with the single highest spend, at $334.
- Apparel and footwear spending is estimated at $231, up from $193 last year.
- School supply spending is estimated at $163, up from $156 last year.
- Back-to-school shoppers spending more in 2021 versus 2022 said it’s because of inflation.
- 91 percent of the respondents said they are basing purchasing decisions on promotions.
- 64 percent of respondents started or planned to start b-t-s shopping earlier to avoid price hikes or out-of-stock items.
- More than 42 percent of b-t-s shopping is expected to occur in August.
- 70 percent of the respondents said their children have significant influence over b-t-s purchases.