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Flat Back-to-School Sales Predicted

The National Retail Federation and The NPD Group have both predicted flat back-to-school sales for retailers this year.

The NRF’s 2011 Back-to-School survey predicts that families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $603.63 on apparel, school supplies and electronics, compared to last year’s average of $606.40. Total spending for  grades K-12 is projected to reach $22.8 billion.

Combined spending for K-12 and college will reach $68.8 billion, according to NRF, making it the second biggest consumer spending event of the year.

According to the survey, 43.7 percent of respondents said the economy is forcing them to simply spend less in general.

Shoppers are trying to stretch their buying power. Nearly 40 percent will purchase more store-brand or generic items, 30 percent will comparison shop more online and 50 percent will shop sales, the NRF reported.

Average spending on clothing and school supplies will slightly, while spending on shoes sees a slight increase over last year. Nearly 52 percent of families with school-aged children plan to purchase electronics this year, down from last year’s historically-high 64 percent.

These numbers support the results of the NPD Group's annual back-to-school study of consumers’ purchasing intentions for the 2011 season. Overall consumers say they plan to spend about the same as last year but will start their shopping a little later this year. The top motivation for consumers to make a purchase during this year's back-to-school season is value, according to the NPD Group's findings.

“Families aren’t opposed to spending on what they need, but parents want their children to take a good look around at what they already have before deciding what to buy for back to school this year,” says NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay. “Retailers understand consumers are extremely focused on value and are taking this opportunity to offer substantial savings on merchandise.”

“The consumer is holding on, but it is an indication that consumers remain cautious about their spending,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. “The study’s results clearly point out that consumers will be shopping later, looking for value, and searching out lower priced options.”

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