School spending to rise

National group expects 10 percent increase this year

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Hannah Kovash, 14, a student at Central Cambria, does some back-to-school shopping with her mom, Lisa, on Thursday at J.C. Penney. Back-to-school shopping picked up during the first week in August at the J.C. Penney store in the Logan Valley Mall, said Alissa Cole, general manager.

WASHINGTON – With back-to-school shopping in full swing, the National Retail Federation is predicting a significant increase in spending compared to last year.

According to the NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, total spending for school and college combined is projected to reach $83.6 billion, a more than 10 percent increase from last year’s $75.8 billion.

“Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more, and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year. As students head back to the classroom, retailers are prepared to meet their needs, whether it’s for pencils and paper, shirts and pants or laptops and tablets.”

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $687.72 each, for a total of $29.5 billion, an 8 percent increase from last year’s $27.3 billion. Total spending is the second-highest in the history of the survey following a peak of $30.3 billion in 2012.

According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend $10.2 billion on clothing, $8.8 billion on electronics such as computers or calculators, $5.6 billion on shoes and $4.9 billion on school supplies such as notebooks, folders, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes.

Some people start their back-to-school shopping right after the Fourth of July holiday.

“We don’t speculate or predict sales, however, we are a one-stop-shop for all students of all ages and from all incomes with brands and fashion trends that they love,” said Andrea Schwartz, spokeswoman for Macy’s, which has a store in the Logan Valley Mall.

Back-to-school shopping picked up during the first week in August at the J.C. Penney store in the Logan Valley Mall, said Alissa Cole, general manager.

“Destructive denim and athleisure are our two biggest sellers. We also have a good selection of shoes, tons of kids shoes, best sellers are Nike and Converse. We also have a dorm shop for back to college. Since J.C. Penney is now selling appliances, we have mini refrigerators and other gadgets,” Cole said.

The store also is selling lots of backpacks.

“We are partnering with United Way to provide backpacks to students in need. Our associates and customers are purchasing the backpacks in the store and donating them to United Way,” Cole said.

The back-to-school season is very important to stores like J.C. Penney.

“Aside from the holidays, this is like our kids Christmas for apparel. It is very important to us,” Cole said.

Back-to-school shopping is also in full swing at Target, which has a local store in Sierra North Plaza.

“In 2016, our back-to-school category sales grew over 2015 with the strongest growth coming from supplies. We saw growth with the introduction of our Cat & Jack brand within kid’s apparel. New this year, we’re introducing Cat & Jack backpacks and lunch kits, which we expect our guests to love,” spokeswoman Megan Boyd said.

“At Target, the back-to-school season is one of our top priorities. It’s the second largest sales-driving season of the year after holiday.”

Electronics are very big for back to school.

“Our research shows that students are interested in laptops, tablets, printers, TVs, headphones, and small appliances and our customer shopping patterns back this up,” said Kevin Flanagan, Best Buy spokesman.

Back to school is also very big at Staples, said spokeswoman Meghan McCarrick, who said school supplies is not just about paper and pens anymore. “More and more technology is being used in classrooms for practicing math and reading skills. In order to do this work independently, headphones now appear on back-to-school shopping lists for students in elementary school. In middle and high school, many homework assignments are often assigned and submitted online via laptops, Chromebook and tablets, McCarrick said.