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Back-To-School Spenders May Be More Frugal This Year

Evening Edition

Aired 8/21/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

HOST

Maureen Cavanaugh

GUEST

Milo Copic, SDSU Marketing Expert

Transcript

The average family with school-age children will spend $635 on back-to-school supplies this year. But that predicted figure is down more than $50 from last year's average, according to the National Retail Federation.

Families with college-age children who have dorm rooms and apartments to furnish always face bigger bills when school starts, but the predicted spending average for 2013 for those families is down, too, from $907 to $837.

The lower expectations are not ideal for a shopping period that is second only to the holidays in economic impact.

Why the anemic forecast? Among reasons cited by economists and business reporters is the financial stress families are feeling because of this year's higher gasoline prices and payroll taxes. In addition, the economy still feels to many as if it's stuck in neutral.

August is traditionally the month for back-to-school spending, expected to amount to some $72.5 billion nationwide. Some retailers have tried to entice buyers to commit to new backpacks, jeans, shoes and school supplies earlier by holding sales in July. Several states, mostly in the south (and not including California), are offering a back-to-school sales-tax holiday.

It is not known yet whether this gambit was successful. What is known is that consumers are saving money by buying generic and looking for sales. More of them than ever have expressed the intention to shop discount stores.

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