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Back-To-School Electronics Spending Could Rise 13%

Demand for consumer electronics has helped prop up retail sales this summer and now a new survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts the category will buoy the back-to-school season as well.

According to the trade group’s 2007 Consumer Intentions and Actions Back-To-School poll, conducted by BIGresearch, CE will see the biggest category increase in sales this year, with families spending 13 percent more on consumer electronics than in 2006 ($129.24 on average vs. $114.38).

“Electronics have evolved from luxuries to necessities, not only for college students but also for their younger siblings,” said NRF president/CEO Tracy Mullin. “While some students may be pleading with mom and dad for an iPod or a cellphone, parents are also investing in desktop or laptop computers, educational software and printers to support their children’s learning.”

Where will parents be making their back-to-school purchases? Discounters will remain the most popular destination although fewer consumers plan to hit mass merchants this year, with 67.6 percent of parents planning to shop at discount stores compared with 72.2 percent last year.

However, the channel expected to see the biggest back-to-school increase is e-tail. The percentage of parents who said they plan to purchase merchandise online rose 40.8 percent, from 15.2 percent in 2006 to 21.4 percent this year. Young parents between the ages of 18 to 34 are the most likely to shop online for children’s merchandise, with nearly one-third planning to use the Web to find back-to-school items.

The survey of 8,290 consumers was conducted from July 3-10.

Separately, a new study commissioned by Circuit City shows that college kids began shopping for their back-to-school consumer electronics two or more months before the start of classes.

The survey of more than 2,200 college students, conducted by independent research firm Decision Analyst, also underscored the importance of PCs as a learning tool. Nearly 62 percent of U.S. colleges and universities now require or recommend that students own computers, the study showed, and almost 98 percent of respondents said they use a computer every day while at college.

What’s more, nearly 90 percent of students surveyed said having their own computers helped them earn better grades, while 80 percent said they would choose a notebook computer over a desktop model.

“There’s no question that college students use their computers day in and day out, not only for academics and communications, but also for music and video games,” said Elliot Becker, Circuit City’s technology VP.