Back-to-School Sends Parents Back-to the Wallet with Inflation, Higher Spending

September 14, 2022

After two years of ups and downs due to the pandemic, everyone hoped for a “normal” back-to-school season in 2022. However, mounting inflation has taken center stage as a new problem for parents as trends predict spending to reach new heights this year.

Higher Inflation, Higher Spending

In its 15th back-to-school survey, Deloitte assessed parents’ priorities as they approach an uncertain future. The effect of inflation on school supplies is undoubtedly a primary concern. The survey notes that 33% of households report their financial situation has worsened in the past year, and 57% of parents are concerned about inflation’s impact on school supply shopping this year. Yet, 37% of parents are planning to still spend more than last year due to rising costs. According to JungleScout, items such as backpacks have gone up 10% percent, and lunch boxes have seen an 8% increase. The National Retail Federation states that families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend around $864 on school supplies this year compared to $849 in 2021, with overall spending expected to reach up to $34.4 billion for K-12 students.

Back-to-School Takes Parents Back-to-Basics

Deloitte’s survey also notes that after a pandemic-fueled technology spree, traditional school supplies are now a priority for parents. As many required tech devices are provided through schools, parents are turning to in-store shopping for supplies like notebooks, backpacks and crayons. When possible, parents are also buying in bulk and reusing old supplies to save money. As a result, online spending is trending down in many categories. JungleScout notes that items such as pencils and lunch boxes are experiencing negative growth on Amazon due to price increases or reusability of old supplies, while the purchase of pre-packaged back-to-school kits and notebooks are on the rise.

Sustainability a Focus

Like many other consumer categories, shoppers are looking for more sustainable product options. Per the Deloitte report, 50% of K-12 parents and 47% of college shoppers will choose environmentally friendly or responsibly sourced products when possible.

Overall, families are finding ways to cut back on spending, including reusing old items and buying more basic supplies. However, with increased retail pricing, the experts predict they will find themselves spending the same or more than last year.

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