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NRF: Back-to-college spending expected to decline

Washington D.C. - College students and their dorm rooms might not look as dressed up this fall. Parents and students plan to spend about 3.2% less on everything from apparel and electronics to dorm furnishings and food items.
According to National Retail Federation's 2011 Back-to-College survey, the average BTC spend will amount to $808.71. Last year's average was $835.73.
The poll, conducted by consumer research firm BigResearch, found "more college shoppers this year will make adjustments to their budgets because of the economy."
Combined K-12 and college back-to-school spending will reach $68.8 billion.
Even more college students will be living at home this year: 52.9% versus 51.8% in 2010. One-quarter (24.7%) will live off campus at a house or apartment. Dorm dwellers and/or students set to live in college housing make up 18%, and 3.6% of students will live in a fraternity or sorority house.
Four out of five (83.7%) respondents said the economy will impact their spending plans. More shoppers than last year will purchase store brand or generic products (38.0% versus 34.1% in 2010), and more will comparison shop online (30.7% vs. 23.2% in 2010). Additionally, many shoppers will make do with last year's items (29.7%) and spend less overall (44.6%).
"College students and their parents, who are likely also spending thousands of dollars on tuition, will be looking for ways to stretch their budgets and find good deals this year," said NRF president and ceo Matthew Shay. "To compensate, retailers will spread out their promotions to capture the attention of shoppers whenever they're in the mood to spend, and will use every resource they can to prominently promote everything from bedding to mini refrigerators and, of course, laptops and smartphones."
The survey found 45.8% of students and their parents will buy electronics, the lowest level since 2005, although BigResearch noted many college students already own the latest gadgets.
Shoppers will also spend on clothing and accessories ($127.37), dorm furnishings ($96.84), food items ($94.60), school supplies ($61.48) and personal care items ($64.44).
Nearly half (47.6%) of families with college-aged children will shop at a department store, up from 42.5% last year. Others will shop at discount stores (53.9%), drug stores (19.4%), home furnishing or home decor stores (11.2%), office supply stores (33.4%), clothing stores (34.2%) and electronics stores (19.6%). Online retailers will see a nice boost in traffic this year - one-third (33.4%) of respondents plan to shop online, up from 28.6% last year.
This year's survey found that one-quarter (24.4%) of college shoppers will begin their shopping at least two months before school starts, the highest percent since NRF began conducting the survey in 2003. Others will head out three weeks to one month before school starts (28.9%), one to two weeks before (27.9%), the week school starts (9.4%) or after school starts (9.4%).

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