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CE Products High On Back-To-School Lists

Despite continued economic uncertainties, Americans plan to spend more on back-to-school products this year than last, according to a survey by the International Mass Retail Association (IMRA). And this may bode well for the consumer electronics industry, which provides many of the hottest student must-haves.

This year 27 percent of surveyed back-to-school shoppers anticipate spending $600 to $900, while another 6 percent plan to spend more than $1,000. Of all surveyed, the average spending for school supplies was estimated at $483, or a 5.4 percent rise from last year.

Of those shopping this fall, IMRA found that the youngest ones expect to spend the most. Eighteen- to 24-year-olds plan to spend an average of $532.

In a related study, NPDTechworld found support for the idea that CE retailers should benefit from back-to-school splurges. PDAs, notebook PCs, scientific calculators and educational software are “shaping up to be popular sellers for the 2002 back-to-school season,” according to the NPD report.

Specifically, PDAs in the under-$200 black-and-white screen market are expected to attract students. “Combined with growth at the entry-level, a whole new range of products sporting color screens and starting at under $300 should make PDAs hot sellers for students of all ages,” noted Stephen Baker, director of IT research at NPDTechworld.

Notebook computers far exceeded desktops in their year-over-year sales during the third quarter of 2001 — a trend that should repeat itself this year, according to NPD. Notebook computer sales increased 3 percent in unit sales during the third quarter of 2001, compared to the same period of 2000, despite dollar sales falling 6 percent.

“Notebooks are always a big thing for college students since they provide full PC functionality in the small form factor,” Baker said. “Especially interesting this year is the trend toward bigger notebooks that pack a lot of power by using a desktop processor.”

Regardless of type, 75 percent of college students consider notebooks and/or desktop computers the most vital tools they will take with them to college, according to a July 2002 Best Buy Co. survey.

Though not necessarily learning-related products, MP3 players and digital cameras are also popular CE categories with students, the NPDTechworld report said.

When it comes to choosing a consumer electronics brand, teens and young adults have the most say, according to a survey by online market research company InsightExpress. Across all CE categories on the survey, the students’ choice of brand influences what is purchased more often than the parents'(see chart).

“Not only are teens and young adults calling the shots on brands, but nearly 40 percent of students said they were going to pay for products themselves,” said Lee Smith, president of InsighExpress. “Marketers need to understand these facts as they try to capitalize on back-to-school shopping.”

Surveyed students said they learn about electronics from a variety of sources, including friends, the Internet, TV, magazines and school.

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