Back-to-school shopping season to reach $83.8 billion

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Even though they began shopping for back-to-school items early this year, there’s still a long list of school supplies to shop for, according to a National Retail Federation Survey.

According to the NRF, the average family has only completed 40 percent of their shopping. Overall, back-to-school sales are expected to reach $83.8 billion – a necessary shot in the arm for local retailers.

“It’s evident that there are plenty of last-minute shoppers this year, and for retailers these next two weeks are of utmost importance when it comes to attracting families who still have apparel, electronics and school supplies to stock up on,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Given how much of an impact the economy is having on consumers’ buying decisions, retailers will remain competitive up through the final sale after Labor Day, rolling out web, in-store and even mobile promotions.”

The survey found that debit/check cards are the preferred payment method for shoppers this summer. Four in 10 shoppers will use their debit cards most often, while one-quarter proper to use cash. About 25.6 percent will use credit cards.

Promotions and coupons are among the big reasons shoppers chose certain purchases, and shoppers say they will continue to look for bargains.

“Smart shoppers are utilizing every channel they can to find the best back-to-school deals, which this year includes comparison shopping through traditional and non-traditional outlets like catalogs and drug stores,” said BIGInsight Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “With so many shoppers relying on debit cards and cash this year, it’s clear that parents are determined to send their students back to class on a budget.”

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in shopping, according to the survey. Seven in 10 tablet owners will use tablets to shop for school items, and more than half of those with smartphones will shop in some way via their mobile devices.

“Mobile continues to drive the conversation in the retail industry, and when it comes to back-to-school, retailers have spent months preparing their mobile promotions in anticipation of one of the biggest mobile shopping seasons we’ve seen yet,” said Shay.