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Back-To-School CE Spending To Soar: NRF

Washington — Students and their families plan to pony up beaucoup bucks for CE devices before the fall semester.

According to a pair of consumer surveys conducted this month for the National Retail Federation (NRF), back-to-school shoppers will spend an average $212.35 on CE products, up 7 percent from last year, with total spend expected to reach $8.4 billion. The outlay will be even higher for high school students and their families, who said they will fork up an average $229.88 on electronics devices.

But the college crowd is where CE spending will really soar. In a separate NRF poll, college students and their parents said they plan to spend an average of $243.79 on laptops, desktop computers, netbooks, tablets, smartphones and other devices, up 20 percent over last year and the highest amount since 2009.

Topping all grades are graduate students, who plan to spend an average $275.24 on electronics.

The surveys also show that CE spending will outpace overall back-to-school and back-to-college expenditures, which also include apparel, shoes, school supplies, dorm furniture, food, personal care items and gift cards. Total spending on back to school will drop slightly to $26.5 billion, the NRF said, as there were slightly fewer students in households this summer, while college-bound purchases will rise 10 percent to $48.4 billion, for a combined school and college spend of $74.9 billion.

As for where all this buying will take place, 27.5 percent of the grade school crowd will shop CE specialty stores, up from 25.9 percent last year, a survey high, while 38.2 percent will shop online, 42 percent will shop at office supply stores, and 64.4 percent will visit discount stores.

Moreover, 36.7 percent of smartphone owners will use them to research products, up from 34.7 percent last year and the highest since NRF started asking in 2011, and more than one in five (21.8 percent) will make a purchase via their smartphone, up from 18.2 percent last year, another survey high. And while many will simply shop online directly through their smartphone, one-quarter will use their devices to find information about a physical store.

School shoppers that own tablets will also use their devices more to shop this summer: 31.4 percent will purchase school items via their tablet, up from 29.9 percent last year, and 45 percent will research products, up from 41.8 percent last year.

The survey also found that kids have huge sway over spending decisions. Nearly one out of 10 of parents (9.7 percent) admit their child influences 100 percent of what they buy for back to school, up from 7.6 percent last year and the highest in the survey’s history.

“It’s safe to say this generation takes back-to-school shopping much more serious than their older brothers and sisters did, with many kids today influencing almost everything their parents buy for the upcoming school year,” said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director for Prosper Insights & Analytics, which conducted the surveys for NRF. “Students will make sure to keep one eye on social media and the other on retailers’ websites as they seek out what’s new and exciting in their hunt for fresh, fashionable and relevant back-to-school gear.”

Among the college contingent, most (50.5 percent) will shop at discount stores, up from 48.3 percent last year, and more than two in five (44.6 percent) will check out retailers’ websites for special promotions, up from 37.1 percent last year and the highest in the survey’s history. Others will shop at college bookstores (41.9 percent), office supply stores (36.3 percent), and small/local businesses (13.2 percent).

When it comes to mobile usage, nearly six in 10 (57.8 percent) will use their smartphone in some fashion as they shop for college items. Of those with smartphones, the survey found one-third (33.8 percent) will research products, the highest since NRF added mobile shopping questions to its survey in 2011. Additionally, one in five (22.4 percent) will purchase items, up from 19.1 percent last year and another survey high, and 29.8 percent will look up retailer information, up from 20.9 percent last year.

Among tablet owners, more than half (54.5 percent) will use their device to shop for college items, with 37.4 percent doing research and 27 percent making purchases on their tablets.

The surveys were conducted July 1-8 among 6,178 consumers.