Parents plan to spend less money on back-to-school gear for their children this year, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation, a troubling sign for retailers heading into their second busiest selling period of the year behind Christmas. The average family with children in kindergarten through 12th grade is expected to spend $548.72 on back-to-school items this year, down 7.7% from a year ago, according to the NRF’s 2009 back-to-school survey. However, college students and their parents will spend an average of $618.12 this year, up 3% from last year, as they seek electronics or dorm room decorations that are more costly. But, with fewer people planning to attend college this fall, the NRF said total college spending is expected to decline 4% to $30.08 billion. “The economy has clearly changed the spending habits of American families, which will likely create a difficult back-to-school season for retailers,” said Tracy Mullin, President and CEO of NRF. “As people focus primarily on price, strong promotions and deep discounts will ultimately win over back-to-school shoppers this year.” Spending in most back-to-school categories is expected to decrease, although the bright spot is electronics. With personal laptops and desktop computers increasingly affordable for most families, spending on electronics and computer equipment is expected to increase 11%, the NRF said.
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