Washington - Back-to-school spending on CE and computers is expected to increase 12 percent to nearly $7.2 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
The industry trade group based its projection on an annual consumer survey, conducted by BIGresearch, showing that families with kids in grades K-12 plan to spend an average of $189.51 on computers, cellphones, MP3 players, tablets and other devices, up from $181.61 last year.
Despite the increase in per-family spending, the number of families that plan to purchase CE fell to 51.9 percent from last year's historically high 63.7 percent.
Both indicators fell for college students and their parents. According to the survey, only 45.8 percent of college families will buy CE, the lowest level since 2005, while the average household expenditure will fall 11 percent to $209.93.
Nevertheless, electronics, rather than clothing, school supplies and dorm furnishings, will still take up the largest portion of college shoppers' budgets, with total purchases nearing $12 billion, an 8 percent decline year over year.
"Young adults are often the first in line to buy the latest tablet device, smartphone or MP3 player, so many college students are already armed with the latest gadgets they'll bring with them to campus," said Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director, BIGresearch. "A decline in electronics spending could also be due to the fact that many popular college items, like laptops, have experienced huge drops in price over the last several years."
Total K-12 and college spending is expected to rise nearly 25 percent this year to $68.8 billion, even as parents look to curtail costs. "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," said NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay. "Retailers understand consumers are extremely focused on value and are taking this opportunity to offer substantial savings on merchandise."
According to the survey, Americans are compensating for the economy by purchasing more store-brand or generic items (39.9 percent), comparison shopping more online (29.8 percent), and shopping for sales (50 percent). Additionally, nearly half of survey respondents said the economy is forcing them to simply spend less in general (43.7 percent).
Discount stores remain the most popular retail channel, with 68.4 percent of K-12 families and 47.6 percent of college families planning to do their back-to-school shopping there. CE specialty stores will draw 21.7 percent of grade-school households and 19.6 percent of college households, while online shopping will grow from 30.8 percent to 31.7 percent for the K-12 group year over year, and will rise from 28.6 percent to 33.4 percent for the college crowd.