Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Is Back-to-School Shopping A Big Scam? The Hype & The Numbers

When and why did back-to-school shopping become such a spending big holiday? The average family will spend about “$563.49 on back-to-school merchandise, up 6.9 percent from last year’s $527.08 average. Total back-to-school spending this year is expected to reach $18.4 billion,” according to data from the National Retail Federation.

Here’s how we’ll spend the money:

Electronics: $129.24 vs. $114.38 in 2006
Footwear: $108.42 vs. $98.34
School supplies: $94.02 vs. $86.22
Clothing and accessories: $231.80 vs. $228.14 in 2006

With a 13 percent year-over-year increase, electronics represent the back-to-school category with the largest hike. Here the explanation from the National Retail Federation:

“Electronics have evolved from luxuries to necessities, not only for college students but also for their younger siblings,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “While some students may be pleading with mom and dad for an iPod or a cell phone, parents are also investing in desktop or laptop computers, educational software and printers to support their children’s learning.”

Hmmmm? Is this just hype?

Clothing, represents about 95 percent of the back-to-school budget and consumers are expected to spend about $7.6 billion on clothing and accessories.

But I just don’t get it: Many schools — including those attended by my children — require uniforms. School uniforms have been marketed as big money savers and many school districts (public and private) require uniforms. The concept: School uniforms reduce peer pressure and trim the family school clothes budget because there’s less need for all kinds of accessories and trendy clothes.

Plus many schools have uniform banks where families can pick up second-hand school uniforms. Other families pass around hand-me-down uniforms in good condition. And if you’re in the market for new uniforms, I’ve seen school uniforms at very affordable prices at different stores, especially days after the school year starts.

So where and why is all of this money being spent? Is back-to-school shopping just a scam and are we being hyped into spending far more than needed?



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Anonymous said...

...are we being hyped into spending far more than needed?

Without a doubt. The whole goal of marketing is to increase demand or create it where there is none, and we're becoming more and more saturated with it as time goes by.

Mrs. Micah said...

Yeah, probably. I was convinced as a kid that I needed new markers, crayons, whatnot every year. Generally all I got was markers and pencils (if I was low). Markers dry out.

My mom was savvy, like you.

Going to college for the first time did result in some big purchases, but they made more sense. Laptop, microwave, that kind of thing.

After that, it was 10 spiral notebooks when they went on sale in September (approx 5 classes in the fall, 5 in the spring, maybe some doubling up for classes with fewer notes) and generally a box of pens. Or I'd take pens from grad school and job fairs. Then during the year I might buy some folders or binders if helpful for the class. Didn't spend more than $20. (sometimes I could get the notebooks for $.10 each! that's the advantage of such sales)

Leah Ingram said...

Sadly, the averages you broke out are pretty similar to what we've spent in years past when getting ready to go back to school. Maybe it's because our district doesn't use uniforms and because I have two tween-age girls. Last year, I did not want to spend about $100 each on my kids' school supplies so here's what we did. We used the school-supplied suppy list and found the basics. If the kids wanted to "upgrade" to a "The Dog" spiral notebook or zebra-striped pencils instead of the boring old Number 2s, they had to spend their own money. This tactic allowed me to cut our spending in half--or at least the money I'd shelled out was cut in half. I intend to try this again this year so that we don't become yet another back-to-school shopping statistic.

Leah Ingram

Caleb said...

I always loved the back to school time because I knew my parents would get me brand new stuff!

Now that I'm a parent,I don't believe the spending will ever lower because of the times we're currently living in...this advanced society requires students to need up-to-date supplies like notebook laptops,etc. but of course with a little intelligent browsing we can definitely find a price range that fits our budget.

JHS. said...

Thanks for participating in this week's Carnival of Family Life. It will be posted at midnight (PDT) at!

creditlucky said...

That's a clear thing, any consumer need is boosted by ads and other marketing technologies. Besides, parents depend on their children's requests to have the same things as the class-mates do. Anyway, when a child I was happy to start a new school year with new articles.