It seems parents are already aware of the extra expense. A recent survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs found that 50 percent of parents were already planning to spend more this year compared with last year. The average household has allocated $672 for back-to-school shopping this year.
What could come as a shock to parents is what the schools are requesting on their supply lists.
Read More Back-to-school costs soar, burdening the poor
"The base is still the same," Sullivan said. "It's notebooks, pens and pencils. But what's growing the list is the extra items like hand sanitizer and Kleenex. These are items that no one's learning with, but the classrooms need those items."
Because parents are buying more items like paper towels, cleansing wipes and tissues, that could bode well for the retailers this summer, Sullivan said.
"If you're buying pencils, pens and notebooks, you're also buying backpacks, iPads and everything else you need like jeans and shirts," he said.
Read More Surprise expenses that bust back-to-school budgets
The biggest gainers could be brick-and-mortar stores like Wal-Mart and Target. The ICSC/Goldman Sachs consumer survey discovered that physical stores would comprise 90 percent of back-to-school sales this year.
—By CNBC's Marqui Mapp