The second-biggest shopping event of the year is shaping up to be not much of an event at all.
As consumers increasingly stock up on back-to-school essentials throughout the year, and simultaneously shift their view as to what constitutes a school item in the first place, a new study has found that parents of children from kindergarten through high school plan to spend $434 on back-to-school items this year—a 20 percent decline.
That includes 39 percent who said they will reuse last year's items instead of buying new, up from 26 percent five years ago.
These gloomy results echo those released by the National Retail Federation earlier this month, which found that parents with K-12 children would collectively spend $24.9 billion this year. That represents a 6 percent drop.
But while the economy and a still-reluctant consumer base are playing a role in these expected declines, Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail and distribution leader at Deloitte, said there's more to the story.
As it becomes easier to make back-to-school buys throughout the year—thanks in part to the Internet—shoppers are spacing out their purchases, and in many cases waiting until the start of the school year.
"I don't think this is bad news for the economy," Paul said. "I think it's more about [consumer] behavior."