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CEA, ICSC See Back-To-School Boon

Parents and teens are expected to spend $3.1 billion on CE devices this back-to-school shopping season, according to a new survey from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The survey was part of a study, called Back to School CE Spending, conducted in July.

The CEA’s survey found 72 percent of teens expect to have a new CE product to bring back to school, and almost 70 percent of teens expect to spend at least some of their own money on supplies. In fact, CEA predicts teen spending will reach $600 million for CE devices alone.

A similar study was conducted July 21-24 on behalf of the New York-based International Council of Shipping Centers (ICSC) and Citigroup Investment Research. It questioned a nationwide sample of 1,000 adults who are either personally attending school or have school-aged children and who are planning to do back-to-school shopping. Findings from the study have led the ICSC to predict electronics will be one of the leading categories for back-to-school shoppers this year.

Computers and calculators are expected to be among the most-wanted products this season according to the CEA. However, the organization predicts MP3 players will also be popular, particularly in cases where teens are spending their own money for supplies.

“That they would choose to spend their money on CE devices shows how highly teenagers value these items as essential tools for school,” said Steve Koenig, CEA’s industry analysis senior manager.

In an effort to boost sales, CEA has convinced some states to introduce sales tax holidays for computer and computer-related products, inspired by similar holidays often held for clothing and footwear products. Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee all held sales tax holidays earlier this month.

The ICSC survey found demand for PCs was “markedly stronger in 2006” and predicted that products like computers and computer accessories will lead back-to-school electronics sales, followed by PDAs, iPods other MP3 players.

The ICSC predicted back-to-school sales will grow by 3 percent to 4 percent this year, resulting in an overall $24.3 billion to $24.5 billion in sales. This total sales prediction is not exclusive to CE dealers, however, as the ICSC suggested that apparel and bookstores also stand to share in a significant piece of the back-to-school pie. In fact, the survey also found 56 percent of back-to-school shoppers plan to visit discount stores this year, up from slightly less than half of shoppers in 2005.

The ICSC found that 54 percent of back-to-school shoppers are focusing on price as their main motivation for spending this year, up from 50 percent in last year’s study. Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and researcher said, “Back-to-school items tend to be viewed as more essential, and not discretionary, for the consumer. The good news is that these consumers will spend for those items — but they are looking for more bargains.”

The ICSC’s survey also found that 50.6 percent of consumers plan to do their shopping in August, but that an increasing number of people (30.9 percent) are planning to wait until September. Only 26.2 percent of respondents planned their shopping for September in the 2005 study.