Though multiple forecasts are calling for subdued growth during retailers' second-biggest selling season, the industry's trade organization is making the case that shoppers are ready to stock up on new clothes and supplies to kick off the school year.
And it has the data to support it.
The National Retail Federation said Thursday it expects families to spend $75.8 billion to get their kids prepared for kindergarten through college. That would represent a gain of 11 percent over last year's prediction for $68 billion.
When breaking it down by household, the organization is calling for a 7 percent lift in average spending on children from kindergarten through high school, and a slight 1 percent decline on college students.
Overall, the NRF's outlook is decidedly rosier than forecasts released earlier this month by Customer Growth Partners and Deloitte, which have pegged their expectations at closer to 3 percent growth. (Deloitte's forecast only pertains to children from kindergarten through high school). If Customer Growth Partners' 3.3 percent forecast were to shake out, it would be the softest back-to-school growth since 2012, when sales increased 3.1 percent, the firm said.
The NRF's forecast, which was based on a survey of 6,809 shoppers between June 30 and July 6, follows a pattern. According to its historical findings, back-to-school spending intentions tend to oscillate between growth and contraction every other year, as consumers alternate between "stock up" and "make do" cycles.
That pattern has taken shape since 2012, when combined spending on back to school and back to college rose to $83.8 billion from $68.8 billion in 2011. Then, in 2013, the expected spending dropped back down to $72.5 billion, as consumers reused many of the items they bought the previous year. Given last year's planned contraction of more than 9 percent, it stands to reason that spending on this season would move higher.
"Consumers have some making up to do after taking a year off," said Ellen Davis, senior vice president of research and strategic initiatives at NRF.
"We don't think that this is an unsustainable trend that were seeing this year," she added, pointing to 2014's comparable spending figure of $74.9 billion.