1/3 of Americans to Spend More on Back to School Shopping this Year

by News Guy on August 24, 2010

Clothing, shoes, school supplies, and even cosmetic services top back to school shopping lists

NEW YORK— August 3, 2010 – The majority (80%) of consumers with children in preschool through high school expect to spend more (39%) or the same (41%) per child on back to school shopping this year compared to last year, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. The average family of four will spend $550 preparing for their kids’ return to the classroom, with clothing shoes and supplies as top expenditures.  More surprising, given sharp declines in consumer confidence over the last two months[i], is that approximately half (45%) of parents have  a range of cosmetic services on their back to school checklists, from haircuts and  manicures to teeth whitening and, in a few cases,  even tattoos.

This month’s American Express Spending & Saving Tracker surveyed consumers about their back to school spending intentions.  The research sample of 2068 consumers among the U.S. general population included two subgroups – the affluent and young professionals, as well as 500 households with children in grades K-12.

Budgeting 101

While many Americans (39%) plan to spend more on back to school shopping this year than in 2009, the majority (63%) say they will have a set budget and virtually all parents (94%) say they will look for ways to be resourceful and to stretch their dollars, primarily by shopping for clearance or sale merchandise (76%) and clipping coupons and/or watching for store promotions (63%).  Clothing, shoes, and school supplies are the leading anticipated back to school expenses.

Back to School Shopping Expenses % Spending in Category Average Expense
Clothing 88% $240
Shoes 86% $100
School Supplies 85% $90

One-third (34%) of parents say electronics are on their back to school shopping list.  The largest single purchase some parents (18%) will make is a new computer or laptop, spending an average of $530.  Other electronics on the shopping list include:

  • Calculators (16%)
  • Cell phones (11%)
  • MP3 players (7%)
  • E-Readers/iPads (5%)
  • Printers (5%)

Grooming 101

Barber shops, nail salons, and even spas will be stops on the back to school shopping circuit with 45 percent of parents intending to spend on cosmetic services and 37 percent expecting to spend on beauty products as part of their kids’ back to school preparation:

Service % Spending On Service/Product Average Amount
Haircuts 89% $40
Hair Styling (highlights/straightening) 37% $60
Manicure/Pedicure 24% $50
Teeth Whitening 18% $70
Spa Services (facial/body treatment) 12% $80
Waxing 11% $50
Tattoos 9% $70

“According to consumers’ spending intentions, this back to school shopping season should be a nice improvement over last year for retailers,” said Pamela Codispoti, American Express senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Card Products.  “Parents plan to spend more, buy early and spread their dollars among various types of retailers.  And their spending plans range from high maintenance and high fashion to high tech items like calculators and computers.”

Psychology 101

While most parents (76%) are adamant that they are not pressured by their kids to spend beyond their means for back to school, some (19% of both the general population and affluents) admit to feeling peer pressure to “keep up” with other parents when back to school shopping.  Young professionals especially feel pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to back to school shopping with more than a third (36%) stating so.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the general population say they will shop for designer labels or brand names for their children.  Designer purchases will primarily be made on sneakers, jeans, and shoes and less so on outerwear, non-denim pants and accessories.

Department stores (43%) will be the most popular destination for clothes shopping, followed by outlets and discount stores (33%).  Surprisingly, only five percent of respondents say they will buy their kids’ back to school wardrobes online.

Eighty-seven percent of parents plan to make their back to school purchases before the start of the new school year and almost one-third (31%) plan to have their shopping completed by the end of July.  One-in-ten parents say they will hold off on shopping until after the semester begins for reasons such as waiting for the best bargains (39%) or having a child who likes to check out the latest trends in the hallways before picking out their own new gear (19%).

Extra-Curricular Spending

Outside the classroom, parents will spend plenty on extra-curricular activities.  Specifically:

Activity % Enlisting Kids in Activity Average Expense
Sports/Athletics 35% $150
Art Classes 14% $90
Music Lessons 12% $280
Tutoring/Test Prep 8% $160

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of consumers aged 18+. The research sample of 2068 consumers among the U.S. general population included two subgroups – the affluent(household income $100k+)  and young professionals(under 30, college educated, household income $50k+)., as well as 500 households with children in grades K-12.  Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between July 16 and July 20, 2010. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 2.2 (or 4.2 among affluents and 4.3 among young professionals) percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. For access to previous American Express Spending & Saving Tracker results, please visit www.americanexpress.com/aboutus.

About American Express

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.  Learn more at www.americanexpress.com and connect with us on www.facebook.com/americanexpress, www.twitter.com/americanexpress and www.youtube.com/americanexpress.

[i] The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® which had declined sharply in June, retreated further in July. The Index now stands at 50.4 (1985=100), down from 54.3 in June.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fred August 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Spas and manicures for back to school? Wow, anything can be excused as a back-to-school purchase now can’t it?

News Guy September 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I know, right? Maybe their professors of fashion and the like ;)

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