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NRF: BTS shoppers responding to early promotions

Washington D.C. - Back-to-school shopping began earlier than ever this year, and the average family with school-age children in grades K-12 has already completed more than half (52.1%) of its shopping, up from 40.1% the same time last year and the highest % reported in several years.

College families have completed nearly half of their shopping as well (49.5%). NRF estimates school and college spending will reach $72.5 billion, according to
NRF's 2013 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Surveys conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics.

"Shopping early and often has become a sign of the times as budget-conscious consumers aim to ease the brunt of large spending events," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and ceo. "In the weeks ahead, last minute shoppers can expect promotions to continue through Labor Day as retailers try to make room for fresh fall merchandise."

The surveys were conducted and polled 5,679 consumers from August 5-12.

Many families can check back-to-college shopping off their to-do list
According to NRF's Back-to-College Survey, by mid-August, two in 10 (20.0%) college shoppers have already completed their shopping, an increase from 16.4% who had wrapped up their shopping by this time last year. Another 28.8% had not yet started their shopping as of mid-August.

One-third of back-to-college shoppers (33.1%) said at least half of their purchases were influenced by retailers' special offers, promotions and coupons. And, when it comes to staying on budget, four in 10 (44.5%) college shoppers will use debit cards most often for their college purchases, and one-quarter (25.3%) will use cash most often. Another 24.9% said they will use their credit cards.

College shoppers and their families will do the remainder of their shopping at discount (50.0%), department (38.2%) and clothing stores (31.9%). More than one-third (34.8%) will complete their shopping online.

This year's back-to-school items "began flying off the shelves as summer heat began to set in," NRF said. According to the survey, 16.3% of families with children in grades K-12 had already completed their shopping lists as of mid-August, a significant jump from the 7.8% last year. Fewer back-to-school shoppers said they haven't started their shopping yet - 20.9% versus 26.9% in 2012.

Seven in 10 Americans (76.9%) said that the economy is still impacting their school and college spending plans. Among those who have already started shopping, the survey found that four in 10 (42.8%) back-to-school shoppers said retailers' sales, coupons and promotions influenced at least half of their purchases - up from 38.5% last year.

In terms of payment methods, 46.2% said they will use their debit cards most often, as opposed to cash (31.0%) and credit (19.9%). Most will head to discount (57.6%), department (52.4%) and clothing stores (39.5%), and online (25.1%).

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