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Back-to-school-season makes summer a second Christmas season for US retailers

Back-to-school-season makes summer a second Christmas season for US retailers

US retailers are looking forward to another high-turnover back-to-school-season leading up to the start of the new school year. During the summer holidays, many parents buy books, notebooks, writing utensils, smartphones, laptops and clothing for their children, generating massive sales for the retailers. This time of the year plays an important role in the US and is regarded as the second-strongest sales driver after Christmas season.

Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation (NRF), expects very strong back-to-school business this year, thanks to solid consumer confidence: a study commissioned by the NRF projects USD 27.5bn spendings by US families. According to the trade association, there have only been two years with higher sales in the past ten years – 2012 (30.3bn) and 2017 (29.5bn).

A recent study by consulting firm Deloitte comes to similar conclusions and estimates the market volume at 27.6 billion dollars. According to the study, the lion share of this figure, 15.1bn, goes towards new clothes, followed by school materials (6.0bn), computers (3.7bn), and other electronic devices such as tablets or smartphones (2.8bn).

Highest spending in northeastern USA, classic retailers continue to outperform online shops

The Deloitte study finds clear differences in spending volume between regions. While spending in the northeast of the USA averages 568 dollars per household and in the west 513 dollars, the midwest (493 dollars) and the southern states (488 dollars) fall short of the US average (510 dollars).

Traditional shops remain the preferred choice for shoppers: 57 per cent of the planned spendings occurs in physical stores, while only 23 per cent is spent in online stores. At the time of the survey, the 1,200 households surveyed by Deloitte were undecided where to spend the remaining 20 per cent.

Back-to-school-season has even bigger impact when considering purchases for college students. The expenditures for the start of the semester are expected to reach record level this year, explains Shay. According to the NRF-commissioned study, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, spending for school and college students is expected to total USD 82.8bn this year, just short of the 83.6 billion of the previous year.

Shay expects the biggest change in purchasing behaviour in the electronics sector. Laptops, tablets and smartphones are now a natural part of every household, and parents are no longer waiting for school to start to buy them, explains the NRF president. On the other hand, children’s influence on their parents’ purchasing behaviour appears to be increasing. Due to social media and other channels, children are ever better informed and selective, says Shay.



Forecasts are not a reliable indicator for future developments.


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