IHS Global Insight offered retailers some back-to-school hope — but still said sales for the season would amount to a B+.
Where other forecasters see a decrease, IHS projected that back-to-school sales this year would rise 3.7 percent to $609.3 billion.
“The 2015 back-to-school retail sales grade is looking like a B+,” said IHS economist Chris Christopher in an analysis.
IHS defines back-to-school sales as retail sales excluding autos, gasoline, grocery and liquor stores and restaurants from July through September — a broader definition than used by others.
Many of the sales projections for the season this year so far have been negative. The National Retail Federation also projected a decline, 6.3 percent to $24.87 billion, and saw back-to-school apparel and accessories expenditures per family declining 5.8 percent to $217.82 from $231.30. A Brand Keys survey found that households with school-age kids planned to spend on average $650 this year, down from $652 a year ago.
“The back-to-school season is the second-most important shopping season for many retailers, after the holiday season,” Christopher said. “The back-to-school season also provides an indication of how much consumers are willing to open their wallets for the holiday shopping season.”
On the positive side for the season, Christopher noted that consumer confidence is up, the housing market is gaining traction, incomes are growing, gas prices are lower and household net worths are moving up.
However, he noted that “many students and parents will not splurge in the third quarter as they are waiting for the heavy holiday price discounting that has been creeping into late October.”
Christopher noted that the back-to-school season is dominated by books, school supplies, apparel, footwear, computers, computer software, smartphones and tablets.
E-commerce has been gaining traction, particularly in the areas of apparel, books, shoes and computers.
“We expect third-quarter e-commerce retail sales to be approximately 7.2 percent of retail trade (total retail sales excluding restaurant sales), and by the fourth quarter of 2017 we expect it to reach 8 percent,” he said.