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Back-to-School Sales Will Play Hooky This Year

Don’t count on a back-to-school sales bonanza to boost your bottom line this year. Parents will be practicing restraint when it comes to budgeting for the annual shopping excursion, a new study shows. The result will be flat sales.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 back-to-school survey conducted by BIGresearch, families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $603.63 on apparel, school supplies and electronics, within a few dollars of last year’s $606.40 average. Total spending on grades K-12 is expected to reach $22.8 billion.

When you add back-to-school spending with back-to-college spending, total spending is more than $68 billion, making it the second biggest spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.

"Families aren’t opposed to spending on what they need, but parents want their children to take a good look around at what they already have before deciding what to buy for back to school this year, said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. "Retailers understand consumers are extremely focused on value and are taking this opportunity to offer substantial savings on merchandise."

According to the survey, Americans are compensating for the economy by purchasing more store-brand or generic items (39.9 percent), comparison shopping more online (29.8 percent), and shopping for sales (50 percent). Additionally, nearly half of survey respondents said the economy is forcing them to simply spend less in general (43.7 percent).

Thanks to popular private labels , promotions and social media campaigns, department stores will be the main beneficiaries of this new climate of restraint.

According to the survey, 57 percent of back-to-school shoppers will head to a department store, up from 53.9 percent last year and the most in the survey’s 8-year history. Though the majority of back-to-school shoppers plan to make at least one purchase from a discount store (68.4 percent), clothing stores (48.7 percent), office supply stores (38 percent) and electronics stores (21.7 percent) will also be popular. Additionally, slightly more people this year will shop online (31.7 percent versus 30.8 percent last year) and in drug stores (21.1 percent versus 19.5 percent last year).

The one bright spot, at least for kids, is that parents will start their shopping closer to the actual start of school, the survey showed. That may seem to make the summer last longer.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.