Back-to-School Spending Expected to Surge

More than half of back-to-school shoppers surveyed are concerned about inflation.

July 19, 2022

Young Girl Shopping for School Supplies

NEW YORK—Back-to-school spending is expected to reach a new high, up to $34.4 billion for K-12 students, or about $661 per student, while back-to-college shoppers are expected to spend $28.3 billion, or about $1,600 per student, according to Deloitte.

More than half (57%) of back-to-school shoppers surveyed are concerned about inflation, though many remain determined to purchase needed supplies, possibly driving spending per student up by as much as 8%. Despite stockout and inflationary concerns, the back-to-school shopping season is returning to a more typical timeframe with 53% of K-12 spending expected to occur by the end of July.

As a result of the pandemic, K-12 parents plan to spend on products that encourage mental wellness, including items for extracurricular activities. Parents concerned about their child’s mental health (50% of respondents) plan to spend 8% more than the average back-to-school shopper.

Many parents of K-12 students are willing to spend more for sustainable products, with 50% choosing environmentally friendly or responsibly sourced products when possible. Forty-seven percent of surveyed back-to-college shoppers also choose sustainable products when possible and report spending 19% more than the average back-to-college shopper.

Deloitte reports that after two years of disruptions spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are ready for a more "normal" shopping approach to the coming school year. However, inflation and other social and economic pressures will likely add complexity to the back-to-school season.

However, families appear ready to spend, even as 36% of surveyed K-12 parents are concerned about making upcoming school-related payments. Fifty-four percent of surveyed K-12 parents expect the economy will weaken in the next six months (up from 28% in 2021).

Over half (57%) of surveyed K-12 parents are concerned about the increase in back-to-school product pricing due to inflation, especially as 1 in 3 households say they are in a worse financial situation than last year. Despite economic and inflation worries, parents are determined to deliver on back-to-school supplies, even as 37% of respondents expect to spend more year over year. Seventy-seven percent of surveyed shoppers say they will trade brands if prices are too high or if their item is out-of-stock.

"Even as economic and inflationary pressures sit top of mind, parents seem resilient and determined to ensure their children get the school supplies needed to succeed this coming year. Retailers that remain conscious of this determination, while being mindful to address shoppers' ongoing economic concerns, could earn trust and position themselves strongly,” said Nick Handrinos, vice chair and U.S. leader, Retail, Wholesale & Distribution and Consumer Products, Deloitte.

According to the Merchants Payments Coalition, swipe fees will contribute an estimated $2.5 billion to the cost of everything from crayons to computers as American families hit with rising inflation send their children back to school and college this year.

“Swipe fees are a hidden tax on almost everything Americans buy regardless of whether they pay with cards or cash,” MPC executive committee member and NACS General Counsel Doug Kantor said. “These fees have been soaring for years but are particularly burdensome when families are hit with the high inflation that has weakened buying power this year. When a low-income family struggling to make ends meet pays $20 more because of swipe fees, that can make the difference in being able to replace a worn-out backpack or buy a warm winter coat.”