Back-to-school spending to hit all-time highs as more families prepare for in-person instruction

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Back-to-school shopping is projected to top pre-pandemic levels and reach a record-breaking $108 billion as an increasing number of students and families prepare for in-person instruction this fall, according to the nation’s largest retail trade group.

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Total spending for school-aged children alone, which excludes college students, is expected to hit an all-time high of $37.1 billion this fall, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics July 2021 Consumer Survey. 

This surpasses the $33.9 billion spent in 2020 when parents rushed to buy the necessary supplies to help their children set up workstations at home, according to data from the retail trade group.

Back-to-school supplies await shoppers at a store in July in Marlborough, Mass. The pandemic has dragged into the new school year and wreaked havoc on reopening plans. (AP)

On average, families with school-aged children plan to dole out $848.90 for supplies this season, according to the NRF. 

Meanwhile, college students and their families are projected to spend an average of $1,200.32 on supplies, which is about $141 more than last year, according to the NRF's data. 

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In total, back-to-college spending is projected to reach a record $71 billion, an increase from the $67.7 billion spent in 2020.

The back-to-school shopping season is seen as an important time for retailers ahead of the bustling holiday season. And although the summer season is in its infancy, more than 50% of students and their families have already started gearing up for the new school year with in-person instruction. 

PARENTS SPENDING MORE ON SCHOOL SUPPLIES THAN EVER BEFORE AS RETAILERS CATER TO VIRTUAL LEARNING

In fact, according to the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics’ annual June survey, 64% of back-to-school shoppers expect schools to be in-person after a prolonged period of Zoom learning. This means shoppers won't only be eyeing new materials – but potentially a new wardrobe as well. 

However, not all back-to-school shoppers have been able to get a head start. More than 75% of shoppers are still waiting to get school supply lists for the 2021-2022 school year. For now, those families and students have purchased 18% of the total items they will probably need, according to data from the NRF. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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