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Retail Trade Group Sticks By Back-to-School Estimates

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Stocking up on school supplies could not come at a more volatile time in the markets.

Sales of number two pencils and notebooks make up part of the second biggest spending event of the year for retailers - only the winter holidays are bigger. Now, there is concern a lack of confidence in the markets could freeze purse strings and give retailers detention.

The National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, took its annual Back-To-School survey the first week of July. Even though it was taken weeks before the stock market swoon created anxiety from Wall Street to Main Street, the group is sticking by its forecast.

Based on the survey, the NRF expects sales to be flat this season. It forecasts total spending in grades K-12 to reach $22.8 billion. The survey finds families of students in grades K-12 are expected to spend $603.63 on clothing, school supplies and electronics. That is just three dollars shy of last year's figure.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said there is a psychological component which could impact consumer spending in the short-term, but it's far too early to gauge the long term impact.

"We expect consumers to stick to the mantra of buy what you need, save where you can. We do not believe this time that consumers will change their back-to-school spending plans, though many may look for more ways to cut costs anywhere they can," said Kleinhenz.

CRT Capital Group Managing Director and Retail Analyst Leah Hartman said she expects the turmoil will put some immediate fear into consumers, but will not significantly depress overall spending.

"We expect 'need' will win out. You still have to clothe your children, they didn’t stop growing," said Hartman. "We anticipate that the spending levels projected by the NRF won't be off more than five percent."



Stephanie is Squawk Box producer. Follow her on twitter @StephLandsman

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