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Back-to-School Shoppers Expecting Hefty Bills Amidst Inflation Surge

As the new school year approaches, parents in the U.S. are gearing up for back-to-school shopping, but they are bracing themselves for higher expenses due to inflation. According to the Back-to-School 2023 Consumer Survey released by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), nearly half of all adults in the country will be making back-to-school purchases this year, with a staggering 75% of respondents acknowledging that they will have to shell out more money for various school-related items compared to last year.

Rising Prices Lead to Increased Spending

The survey found that 60% of respondents are planning to increase their spending on back-to-school items primarily due to the surge in prices and inflation. This is a significant increase from the 43% who expressed the same intention last year. On average, parents expect to spend approximately $969 on back-to-school shopping this year, which is a notable jump from the $911 spent during the 2022 season.

Spending Breakdown

Among the various items on their shopping lists, electronics seem to be the priority, with an average expected expenditure of $260. However, the largest increase in spending compared to previous years is on school supplies, with parents anticipating to spend around $168, an 18% increase from last year.

ICSC’s latest survey also revealed that parents are allocating an average of $233 for apparel, $205 for furniture, and $102 for sporting goods. With such hefty spending plans, it’s evident that parents are feeling the impact of inflation on their wallets.

Inflation’s Influence on Purchases

The majority of respondents (90%) admitted that inflation and rising prices would significantly impact their purchasing decisions this back-to-school season. In response to the financial strain, seven out of ten parents said they intend to shop at discount stores, which marks a 5% increase from last year. This shift in shopping behavior showcases how consumers are becoming more price-conscious and seeking affordable options to manage their expenses.

Expert Insight: Back-to-School Season Outlook

ICSC’s president and CEO, Tom McGee, shared his insights on the survey’s results. He pointed out that while consumers are willing to spend more on school-related items this year, their primary concern is inflation. As a result, discount stores and affordable retailers are expected to benefit from this trend. McGee expressed confidence in the resilience of consumers, stating that this back-to-school season would likely be successful for retailers.

Inflation Eases, But Concerns Persist

Although inflation has eased from its peak of 9.1% last year to 3%, it still remains above both the pre-pandemic average and the Federal Reserve’s 2% target rate. The Federal Reserve had taken aggressive measures to control rising prices through rate-hiking campaigns. Despite this, McGee remains positive about the overall state of the Marketplaces Industry, highlighting its steady growth and the strength of the labor market. He anticipates that as inflation slows and consumer confidence gradually increases, retail sales will continue to grow throughout the year.

As parents across the U.S. gear up for the back-to-school season, their wallets are feeling the strain of inflation. With higher prices for school supplies and other items, many are turning to discount stores to manage their expenses. As the economy continues to recover, retailers are hopeful for a successful back-to-school season despite the challenges posed by inflation.

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