Families cut back on back to school spending

Back to school

KPCC/Wendy Lee

Renee Martinez and her two kids, Domanick and Alyssa, shop for school supplies at Kmart in Temple City. Martinez, who is unemployed, said she is cutting back on the amount of money spent on school supplies this year.

Families will spend less on back to school shopping this year, as many continue to worry about the sluggish economy.

The average family will pay about $635 on school supplies, electronics and clothing related to the new school year, according to the National Retail Federation. That's a $54 drop compared to 2012.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said shoppers continue to grapple with the increase in payroll taxes, due to government spending cuts this year. He said customers will look to "cut corners where they can," while buying what their kids need.

"The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind," Shay said. "Having splurged on their growing children's needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season."


The National Retail Federation's data was based on a survey of more than 5,600 people that was conducted July 1-8.

The National Retail Federation said families will spend most of their money on clothes and accessories. Fewer families with children in kindergarten through high school will buy electronics this year, according to NRF's survey.

Renee Martinez of Alhambra planned to spend just $60 on both her kids for back to school, a sharp drop from the $125 spent last year.

Martinez said she's had to watch her spending after losing her job as a state employee about a year and half ago. She was looking for discounts on school supplies at the Kmart in Temple City on Friday.

"So it's just one income right now, my husband's income," Martinez said. "We're just here trying to get some sales stuff and that's it."

That didn't stop her children, Domanick and Alyssa, from wanting to buy items. The nearby aisles and displays were full of backpacks, notebooks and other school supplies.

"Mom, don't we need like ... can I get some erasers?" asked Domanick, who is entering the 4th grade. Martinez said the family already had erasers and reminded him they were looking for items on sale.

Back to school shopping is the second biggest sales generating event of the year for retailers, according to the National Retail Federation. The largest sales generating event is the winter holidays.

The top three spots for back to school shopping were discount stores, department stores and clothing stores, according to the National Retail Federation. 

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