Back-to-school spending is expected to be substantially lower this year, which has retailers expanding their themed sales beyond expected school staples to unexpected items like mattresses and fine jewelry.
Sales for back to school are expected to tally $72.5 billion, down from $83.8 billion in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation. Families with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend an average $634.78, versus $688.62 in 2012, while families of college students will spend $836.83, down from $907.22 last year. Eight in 10 families surveyed said economic conditions would affect their spending.
As a retail "holiday," back to school is second in spending only to Christmas. So slow retail sales and consumer spending cutbacks have made retailers more eager to capitalize on the back-to-school audience: Parents who, even if they can't afford to spend freely, still have to buy certain staples to send their kids off to class, said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the NRF. "All of these different companies are fighting for the same consumer," she said. "We're expecting retailers to be incredibly promotional."
The competition is broad. It's not unusual these days to see unexpected retailers pushing back-to-school items or sales, like the free shipping deals on backpacks and lunch bags at home goods store Pottery Barn Kids.