Parents Still Have Long Back-To-School Shopping Lists

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Even though parents started their shopping for back-to-school supplies earlier than ever this year, the average person has more than half of their shopping left to do, according to a survey out Thursday.

The survey conducted by BIGinsight on behalf of the retail industry trade group the National Retail Federation found the average person with kids in kindergarten through high school has completed 40.1 percent of their shopping as of Aug. 7. Parents of college students are faring a bit better, with about 45.3 percent of their shopping left to do.

The NRF is predicting back-to-school sales will be up 14 percent this year. (for More: Back-To-School Sales Seen Up Despite Tepid Economy)

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said the next two weeks will be critical for retailers looking to lure back-to-school shoppers.

“Given how much of an impact the economy is having on consumers’ buying decisions, retailers will remain competitive up through the final sales after Labor Day, rolling out web, in-store and even mobile promotions to entice children and their parents,” Shay said, in a press release.

Perhaps this is a sign of how savvy shoppers are. SumAll, a business analytics company for small- and mid-sized online retailers, recently conducted a study and found some of the best deals online were available in July and September. (For more: Is It Better to Put Off Back-to-School Shopping?)

Off course, with all the mixed economic signals out there, some may worry that procrastination is a sign of growing uncertainty among consumers. Perhaps they are delaying purchases in order to see if they can do without items, or to stretch out payments over time to soften the blow of the expense.

Wal-Mart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said in a recorded message to investors that the world’s largest retailer was seeing a “pronounced” paycheck cycle. What this means is that cash-strapped shoppers are spending more when they receive their paycheck, then presumably running out of cash, and holding off on spending until the next paycheck. (For More: Wal-Mart Profit Tops Views, but Forecast Disappoints)

This is a red flag that suggests middle- and lower-income consumers are starting to feel some strain.

So it’s okay that shoppers are being slow to head to the checkout, as long as they ultimately check off the items on that long shopping list.

Questions? Comments? Email us at Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.