Back to School: Dressing for Nov. 6

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Back-to-school shopping in Colma, California.

Are you better off than you were four years ago?

How about nine years ago?

The numbers on back-to-school shopping show a bigger increase in spending by U.S. consumers than at any time since 2003.

The numbers also conceal what may be the troubling trend.

Parents are starting to shop early this year, hunting for sales, and spreading the spending out to get a better bargain.

That’s the conclusion today of the National Retail Federation survey conducted this month. The average person with students in Kindergarten through 12th grade plans to spend $688.62 on clothing and supplies, jumping 14 percent from $603.63 a year earlier, Bloomberg’s Kelly Blessing says.

The big increase has a lot to do with how long folks have been delaying clothing and electronics sales in recent months. Kids had to “make-do” last year, but more and more parents are saying they can’t put off buying new any more, says the Federation’s CEO, Matthew Shay. Two-thirds of the people in the survey plan to shop at discounters.

So while the absolute numbers are good for the retailers — total spending for all students, including those in college, is expected to rise to $83.8 billion from $68.8 billion a year earlier — the commentary still isn’t great for the economy.

And Election Day is just a couple months into the new school year.



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