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US back-to-school apparel spend set to rise 8%



After tightening their belts and trimming back-to-school spending in 2015, US families are set to spend more freely on school and college supplies this year as they embark on a "stock-up" cycle as opposed to "making do".

The average family with children in grades K-12 is set to spend US$673.57 on electronics, apparel and other school needs, up from $630.36 from last year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual Back-to-School Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

With families having spent 54.8% more on school items over the past ten years, total back-to-school spending is expected to reach $27.3bn, an increase of 9.6% from last year's $24.9bn.

Combined spending for back to school and college is expected to reach $75.8bn, up from last year's $68bn.

Back-to-school shoppers will spend an average of $235.39 on apparel, up 8% from $217.82 last year, and $126.35 on new shoes, up from $124.46 a year ago.

"Families are still looking for bargains, but there are signs that they are less worried about the economy than in the past," says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

The survey found consumer confidence in the economy continues to grow and is a significant factor in how families will spend for back-to-school this year. A few more families are shopping for sales (43%, up from 41%) or comparing prices online (32%, up from 31%).

But the number who saying they are spending less overall is down at 23%, compared with 27% last year. And the number who say the economy will have no effect on their plans is at 27%, up from 24% last year and the highest level in the survey's history.

According to NRF, the forecast follows a pattern in which spending often increases one year as families stock up on supplies only to drop off the next as they get a second year out of longer-lasting items like backpacks or computers. Spending then increases in the third year once children outgrow clothing or items need to be replaced.

Parents and college students are expected to spend $137.29, up from $136.95 last year, and $70.39 on shoes, below the $72.29 forecast for 2015.

"Heading into the second half of the year, we are optimistic that overall economic growth and consumer spending will continue to improve as they did in the first two quarters of the year.

"We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with offering great deals both in stores and online for back to school shoppers. And retailers will keep a close eye on inventory levels as families spread out their shopping throughout the summer."



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