by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Inflation continues to pummel consumers, and the back-to-school shopping season will be no exception. Crippling inflationary pressures will drive up the cost of outfitting youngsters for the coming school year.
The 2022 Deloitte Back-To-School Survey is an annual study focused on consumer sentiment, spending trends, habits, and technology. Deloitte estimates that households will spend $661 per child, an 8% increase in household spending compared to 2021 and an astonishing 27% increase since 2019. Their research suggests that parents will increase spending on clothing and accessories, school supplies, and COVID-19-related items. While virtual learning necessitated investments in technology during the pandemic, consumers are less likely to invest in pricey technology products now that schools have returned to in-person learning.
The Deloitte survey offers a sobering assessment of consumer sentiment as the new school year approaches. Overall, 54% expect the economy to weaken through December. One-third of respondents report a worsening financial situation, and 57% of respondents are concerned about price increases. Nevertheless, 37% of parents expect to spend more on back-to-school shopping this year than last year.
Each summer, the National Retail Federation (NRF) publishes survey data designed to assist retail outlets in preparing for the back-to-school shopping season. NRF estimates that families with children in primary or secondary schools will spend an average of $864 per household on electronics, clothing, shoes, and school supplies. While this represents only a $15 increase compared to 2021, family expenditures on back-to-school items have surged by $167 or 24% per household since 2019.
No category of household expenditure is immune to inflation, but the increasing costs of some items have outpaced others. For example, expected spending on electronics and computers has increased by a staggering 44% since 2019, thanks in part to the increasing cost of manufacturing semiconductors and other key components. Spending on shoes is up 24%, while clothing will rise a comparatively modest 10%.
Average spending on school supplies will reach nearly $140 per household this year, a 19% increase from three years ago. Families shopping to fill the voluminous school supply requests of their local public school will be hit with a much larger bill this year. Perhaps President Biden will respond to retailers the same way he confronted gas stations, demanding that they “bring down the price [they’re] charging to reflect the cost [they’re] paying for the product.”