‘Back to school’ shopping second only to Christmas

Back to school shopping produces the second highest revenue with Christmas coming in first.

Back to school shopping produces the second highest revenue with Christmas coming in first.

School-year shopping was expected the second-highest spending season behind the winter holidays.

According to the latest survey results from the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers this year were planning to spend an average of $669.28 on back-to-school and $916.48 on back-to-college items, up 5.4 percent and 9.5 percent from last year, respectively.

According to Nielsen Marketplace, of the approximately 1.0 million households in Nevada, 34.0 percent have children under the age of 18 years old. Assuming national trends apply in Nevada, the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) estimates that statewide back-to-school spending could reach $237 million in 2014, up 7.4 percent from $221 million last year. Back-to-college spending is expected to report even stronger annual growth. According to the Nevada System of Higher Education, 104,618 students are enrolled in Nevada’s colleges. If these students follow national trends, RAN estimates back-to-college spending could increase 9.1 percent to $96 million this year. Note, back-to-school and back-to-college spending growth in Nevada differs from NRF estimates due to changes in enrollment from 2013 to 2014.

The NRF said parents usually spend the most on clothing, reaching an average of $231.30. Other important items include electronics ($212.35), shoes ($124.46) and school supplies ($101.18). Interestingly, the amount spent on school supplies, while less than electronics, clothing and shoes, will report the greatest annual growth among the spending categories this year, with spending on notebooks, pencils, backpacks and other necessary items increasing nearly 12 percent from 2013. High school students face the greatest expense when shopping for back-to-school items, reporting an average of $682.99. They are followed by middle school students ($682.13) and elementary school students ($580.94).

Among back-to-college shoppers, spending on electronics is expected to increase nearly 20 percent this year, rising to an average of $243.79 from $203.28 last year. Meanwhile, estimated spending on supplies, such as notebooks, backpacks, pencils and folders is expected to rise 18.9 percent to an average of $74.80, while average spending on clothing will increase 13.1 percent to $138.73. The most spending overall will come from freshmen ($908.69), followed by graduate students ($856.29), juniors ($791.08), sophomores ($670.89) and seniors ($567.52). College students commuting from home may be able to realize some savings compared to their dormitory-housed counterparts, though many items are needed regardless of the student’s housing situation.

When it comes to buying supplies, clothes and other items for school and college, 38.2 percent of back-to-school shoppers say they plan to shop for products online, up 0.9 percentage points from last year. About 45 percent of back-to-college shoppers plan to shop online, up 7.5 percentage points from last year and a survey high. Among smartphone and tablet owners planning to shop for back-to-school items, 21.8 percent and 31.4 percent, respectively, plan to make a purchase using their devices, both survey highs. Among smartphone and tablet owners planning to shop for back-to-college items, 22.4 percent and 27.0 percent, respectively, plan to purchase items using their devices, a survey high for smartphone owners and a slight decline for tablet owners.

The increased use of the Internet in making purchases will have mixed outcomes for bricks-and-mortar stores. Online retailers without a physical presence in the state do not have to collect sales tax. In fact, according to local news reports, Nevada lost an estimated $330 million in 2012 because of this issue, while bricks-and-mortar stores that do have to charge sales tax continue to face increased competition from these online retailers.

Bryan Wachter of RAN noted, “Although Amazon now collects sales tax for purchases made by consumers in Nevada, there are still plenty of online retailers who are able to avoid collecting sales tax. As the state continues to lose potential revenue from the collection of sales tax, it becomes increasingly difficult to fund services like education.”


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