Retailers Brace For Muted Back-to-School Spending

Retailers Prepare For Diluted School Spending

The increasingly likely scenario that many students in the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom will be resuming school at their kitchen tables has retailers that usually cash in every late summer biting their financial nails.

Reuters reported on Monday (July 20) that “major retailers in the United States, EU and UK are aggressively discounting back-to-school backpacks and uniforms and airing new advertisements featuring students happily taking classes at home.”

According to the wire service, Britain’s Marks & Spencer is offering 25 percent off school uniforms and U.S.-based Lands’ End is offering a 60 percent discount on backpacks on Monday and Tuesday. And Walmart, Reuters says, is running ads that feature stay-at-home students.

Even if COVID-19 doesn’t prevent schools from reopening, the virus is likely to take an especially significant toll on brick-and-mortar retailers, consultancy Deloitte stated in a report earlier this month.

Deloitte predicted roughly flat year-over-year U.S. back-to-school spending of $28.1 billion for K-12 students, or $529 per student, and $25.4 billion for college students, or $1,345 per student.

The National Retailer Federation (NRF) recently put out an even rosier forecast for the K-12 market, suggesting that back-to-school sales are likely to reach $789 per student this year, up from $697 last year. The retailers’ group, working with Prosper Insight & Analytics to survey households with children from K-12, 95 percent plan to purchase school supplies, 93 percent plan to purchase clothing and accessories, 90 percent plan to purchase shoes and 63 percent plan to purchase electronics.

For college students, the household survey found that 89 percent plan to purchase school supplies, 75 percent plan to purchase food, 60 percent plan to purchase electronics and 44 percent plan to purchase gift cards.