Consumers looking to cut corners with their 2012 back-to-school budgets

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Every year it’s the same thing. Come mid-June, when discussions of back-to-school pop up in the news, in stores and even here at NRF, the conversation always goes something like this: ”Back-to-school? Kids JUST got out of school!” – to which I reply, “August will be here before you know it!” Sadly, yes, August will be here before we know it (does that mean the holiday season will too? Yes.)  Much to their children’s chagrin, that means that there are already millions of parents planning their back-to-school shopping lists and destinations, plan-of-attack and, of course, their budgets.

Last year, the average person spent about $603 on everything from school supplies and apparel to electronics and footwear. When it comes to consumers’ intentions to spend this summer, the economy has emerged as the big old fat elephant in the room. Though we’ve seen 23 months of consecutive year-over-year retail sales growth, consumer spending has noticeably slowed and unemployment remains stubbornly high. Reacting to this, businesses have also tempered their hiring as well.

To further examine how the state of the U.S. economy will impact Americans’ back-to-school and back-to-college spending plans, we reached out to our friends at BIGinsight for their, well…insights.

According to BIGinsight’s June monthly consumer survey, 80.4 percent of people with school-aged children say the economy will impact their spending plans. Compared to July 2011, when NRF released its last back-to-school/college spending surveys, that’s down from 86.1 percent. College students and their families aren’t far off – 79.8 percent said the economy will impact their college-related spending plans.

Overall, it looks like the Internet is where the back-to-school shopper will be. Offering convenience and cost-saving opportunities, 31.0 percent of shoppers with children in K-12 say they will do more comparative shopping online, up from 29.8 percent last year. Nearly 17 percent said they would shop  online more, up from 15.3 percent last year and 12.3 percent the year prior. The economy isn’t only impacting how, when and where people shop – it’s also impacting parent’s plans to spend on extracurricular activities. The highest percent in the survey’s history – 14.3 percent – said they will cut back on extracurricular activities because of the economy, up from 10.2 percent last year.

It also looks like college-bound students will have to get used to used books (bright side: they already have notes in the margins!). Two out of five (22.2%) with college-aged children said they would share or borrow textbooks instead of buying them. The survey also found college students and their families will shop online more often (19.6% vs. 18.8% last year) and will use coupons more often as well (34.0% vs. 32.7% last year.)

Additional highlights here:

Want more stats? Download the complete survey results on how the U.S. economy will impact consumers school and college spending plans. Additionally, NRF will release its complete 2012 Back-to-School and Back-to-College spending surveys in mid-July.
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