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NEW YORK – A research consulting firm based here has found that American households have big plans for back-to-school purchases, with apparel trailing only computers in planned increases.

In interviews with representatives of 10,000 households that include school-age children, Brand Keys Inc. found that the typical family plans to spend $260 for their kids’ apparel this year, up 26.8% from last year’s mark of $205. Computers trailed apparel with $210 in expenditures planned, but that figure was 31.3% higher than a year ago. 

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Expected Back-to-School Expenditures Per Category
20062005   Change
Clothing$260$20526.8%
Computers$210$16031.3%
Shoes$100$8517.6%
Supplies$95$7526.7%
Books$22$1915.8%
$687$54426.3%
Retail Beneficiaries 
20062005   Change
Discount75%80%-5%
Department50%55%-5%
Office Supply45%50%-5%
Specialty40%45%-5%
Online25%18%7%
Catalogs13%10%3%

Brand Keys found that the average outlay per household is $550. “It appears that it is going to be a $17-billion-plus back-to-school season this year,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys.

That  would translate into more than a 20% increase over last year, a number that could go higher if gas prices were to moderate: “Even so, all the numbers represent a substantial upsurge in spending since last back-to-school season.”

Shoe purchase expectations are up 17.6% for the season, to $100; those for supplies ahead 26.7% to $95; and those for books 15.8% higher than a year ago, $22.

Passikoff noted that higher gas prices may have boosted the number of households that expect to shop online (25% versus 18% in 2005) and via catalogs (13% versus 10%) for back-to-school merchandise.

When asked to indicate preferred retail types, all other choices were down – and down exactly 5% — from a year ago. Seventy-five percent of respondents indicated discount stores, followed by department stores (50%), office supply stores (45%) and specialty stores (40%).

“For the consumer, the traditional Three R’s are now ‘retailer,’ ‘rates’ and ‘requirements,’” said Passikoff. “Which retailer is offering the best prices for the things they need most is how consumers are looking at the back-to-school marketplace.”

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