Consumers plan to spend more across all categories, with shoes and school supplies seeing the highest expected increase

Consumers plan to spend more across all categories, with shoes and school supplies seeing the highest expected increase

With consumer confidence rising and more young people in school, US families are set to spend more freely on school and college supplies this year – potentially lifting back-to-school spending to its second-highest level on record.

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average US$687.72 each, on electronics, apparel and other school needs, giving a total of $29.5bn. This is an 8% increase from last year's $27.3bn.

Total back-to-school spending is the second-highest in the history of the National Retail Federation's annual Back-to-School Survey, following a peak of $30.3bn in 2012. Combined spending for school and college combined is expected to reach $83.6bn, a more than 10% increase from last year's $75.8bn.

Back-to-school shoppers will spend an average of $238.89 on apparel, up from $235.39 last year; and $130.38 on new shoes, up 3.2% from $126.35 a year ago. Consumers say they plan to spend more across all categories, with shoes and school supplies seeing the highest expected increase.

"Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy," says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. "With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year. As students head back to the classroom, retailers are prepared to meet their needs whether it's for pencils and paper, shirts and pants or laptops and tablets."

The survey found children's influence continues to grow and is a significant factor in how families will spend for back-to-school this year, with 65% of back-to-school shoppers saying half or more of their purchases are a direct result of their children's influence, up from 57% last year. Also growing is their willingness to help their parents pay the bill: teenagers will contribute $37.64, up from last year's $32.90, and pre-teens will contribute $27.09, up from last years $20.08.

Meanwhile, more families will tackle their back-to-school lists early this year with 27% starting two months before the beginning of school, up from 22% last year. But not all shoppers are early birds: 21% will wait until the last week or two before school starts, about the same as last year. Of those shopping early, 60% say they are trying to spread out their budgets, 48% do not want to miss out on sales and 43% want to avoid crowds.

When it comes to where parents will buy, they are shopping across a variety of retailers: 57% will shop at department stores, 54% at discount stores, 46% each at clothing stores and online, and 36% at office supply stores. For those shopping online, 91% plan to take advantage of free shipping and 54% will buy online and pick up in-store.