Back-to-school sales to hit $102 billion as laptop buys surge: NRF

FILE PHOTO: A woman counts U.S. dollar bills at her home in Buenos Aires

(Reuters) – U.S. households are likely to spend a record $102 billion in back-to-school shopping next month, with laptop sales set to boom as parents anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic will keep at least some classes online, a U.S. trade group said on Wednesday.

The survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) calculated overall spending in one of U.S. retailers’ most important periods would rise about 26% compared to last year.

College spending is expected to total $67.7 billion, up from $54.5 billion last year, while on elementary school kids it will reach a total of $33.9 billion, up from $26.2 billion.

While many schools and colleges are still mulling reopening classrooms in September, 55% of shoppers expect students to take at least some of their classes at home this fall, with only 26% expecting most or all classes to be taught in-person, National Retail Federation (NRF) said.

“By any measure, this is an unprecedented year with great uncertainty, including how students will get their education this fall,” NRF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said.

“Parents … know the value of an education and are navigating uncertainty and unknowns so that students are prepared.”

Of those expecting classes at home, 72% said they would buy computers, home furnishings or other supplies needed to study from home. A third said they would buy a laptop and more than a fifth said computer speakers or headphones.

The vast majority of consumers said the pandemic would change how they shop this year even as stores reopen, with 43% saying they plan to make purchases online rather than in-person.

Parents with children in elementary school through high school said they plan to spend an average $789.49 per family, topping last year’s $696.70. College students expect to spend an average $1,059.20 per family, compared with last year’s $976.78.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Shinjini Ganguli)