Back-to-school shopping began earlier than ever this year, according to the National Retail Federation, with the average family with school-age children having already finished more than half (52.1 percent) of its shopping.
This is up from 40.1 percent at the same time last year and is the highest percent in the survey’s history.
College families have completed nearly half of their shopping as well (49.5 percent). The NRF estimates that school and college spending will reach $72.5 billion this year.
“Given the historic level of early-bird shoppers we’ve seen this year, it is evident that many families still consider price and value when looking for their back-to-school and college needs,” says Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer, NRF. “Shopping early and often has become a sign of the times as budget-conscious consumers aim to ease the brunt of large spending events. In the weeks ahead, last minute shoppers can expect promotions to continue through Labor Day as retailers try to make room for fresh fall merchandise.”
According to the survey, 16.3 percent of families with children in grades K-12 had already completed their shopping lists as of mid-August, a significant jump from last year’s 7.8 percent, and fewer back-to-school shoppers say they haven’t started their shopping yet (20.9 percent versus 26.9 percent in 2012).
By mid-August, two in 10 (20 percent) college shoppers have already completed their shopping, an increase from 16.4 percent last year.
With seven in 10 Americans (76.9 percent) saying that the economy is still impacting their school and college spending plans, sales and coupons are growing in popularity. Of those who have already started their shopping, the survey found that four in 10 (42.8 percent) back-to-school shoppers say retailers’ sales, coupons and promotions influenced at least half of their purchases, up from 38.5 percent last year. Given the cost of many traditional college necessities, such as dorm furniture and electronics, one-third of back-to-college shoppers (33.1 percent) say at least half of their purchases were influenced by retailers’ special offers, promotions and coupons.