Americans Feeling Pain of Inflation as They Begin Back-to-School Shopping

Americans Feeling Pain of Inflation as They Begin Back-to-School Shopping
Back-to-school supplies are displayed at a Target store in San Rafael, Calif., on August 03, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The Center Square

Inflation has soared in the past year, and parents are feeling the difference as they start back-to-school shopping this year.

A new Morning Consult survey found that parents expect to spend more money and are less excited about shopping for their children this year.

“As pressure mounts on everyday expenses, more parents feel that they’ll have trouble or outright can’t afford their children’s back-to-school needs compared with previous years,” the group said. “Parents’ planned spending has increased significantly from prior years as families wrangle budgets to accommodate anticipated higher prices for school necessities.”

The report found that 19 percent of parents cannot “afford all the back-to-school supplies they need,” compared to 9 percent who said the same in 2020.

“And as the shopping season ramps up, parents are nearly evenly split on feeling either stressed or excited about back-to-school shopping, which is a marked change from last summer, when more parents were excited about returning to a more ‘normal’ school year in classrooms,” the group said.

Parents are also cutting back on school supplies they deem are not as important.

“Larger economic trends indicate that essentials like notebooks, pencils, and new clothes for growing kids will still make it into shopping carts, but discretionary items might be at risk of getting cut or at least traded down to less expensive options,” the survey said. “The majority will shop in stores or mix online and instore shopping, highlighting opportunities for retailers to use location and loyalty data to push additional shopping trips for customers buying back-to-school items. Retailers juggling inventory challenges and inflation pressure must precisely target cross-channel promotions and push in-store upsell opportunities to earn their share of wallet from these eager but stressed-out shoppers.”

This report comes on the heels of a recent study from Deloitte which found that back-to-school spending is expected to reach $34.4 billion for K-12 students, an all-time high.

“More than half (57 percent) 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 percent,” the report said. “Back-to-school shoppers surveyed plan to decrease their spending on technology products by 8 percent year-over-year, while those shopping for college are set to increase their spend on technology by 22 percent from 2021.”

By Casey Harper
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting.
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