School Bells Ringing In The Dough For Tech Dealers

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A pair of recent studies confirmed what CE retailers like to hear: back-to-school spending is expected to rise this year.

Parents plan to spend $8.8 billion on back-to-school electronics this summer, an increase of 6.4 percent over last year, according to an annual survey commissioned by the National Retail Foundation (NRF). The expected tech haul is even greater for college families, said the NRF, at $12.8 billion, up nearly 11 percent from summer 2016.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), meanwhile, said 63 percent of U.S. consumers who have completed or plan to do back-to-school shopping this year expect to buy tech or tech accessories, up 4 percent over last year. The group’s estimates of the total tech spend for the industry are even more optimistic than the NRF’s, with a projected $19.9 billion total shelled out this year on back-to-school tech products/accessories, up 7.6 percent vs. last year.

“Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy,” said NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay. “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.”

According to the CTA, 88 percent plan to shop at a physical mass-merchant store and 56 percent plan to shop at a physical office-supply store, unchanged from last year. Forty-four percent plan to shop at an online retailer.

Laptops and tablets were the top two CE products cited by school-age and college families in the NRF study. Among grade-schooler shoppers, 45 percent plan to buy a laptop, 35 percent will purchase a tablet or calculator, and 25 percent expect to pick up a mouse, flash drive, charger or some other CE accessory.

For the collegiate set, 61 percent will buy a laptop, 28 percent plan to purchase a tablet, 26 percent will acquire tech accessories, 24 percent will get a calculator and 21 percent expect to buy a mobile phone.

“Schools are changing their classroom experience to include more technology including laptops and tablets,” said Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst at Prosper Insights and Analytics, which conducted the survey for NRF. “That is why many parents, specifically millennials, are spending more during back-to-school season and taking advantage of retailers’ best deals to stretch their budgets.”

More families will also tackle their back-to-school lists early this year, with 27 percent beginning two months before the start of school, the NRF said, up from 22 percent last year. But not all shoppers are early birds: 21 percent will wait until the last week or two before school starts in order to spread out their budgets (60 percent), partake in end-of-season sales (48 percent), and avoid crowds (43 percent).

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