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How higher prices are impacting back-to-school shopping

Nearly 70% of back-to-school shoppers say they’ve noticed higher prices, especially among clothing. That’s according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey

When comparing pre-pandemic shopping to today, research director Katherine Cullen said electronics spending has dramatically increased, “About 50% of growth in back-to-school spending compared to 2019 is being driven specifically by the electronics category and about a quarter of the growth for back to college is being driven by electronics.”

She said sales of laptops, calculators and mobile devices remain strong while accessory sales are softening this year for things like speakers, printers and computer mice.

Close to 40% of survey respondents said they’re cutting back spending in other areas to cover back-to-school costs. Sales for elementary through high school students are expected to match last year’s record of $37 billion, with the average family spending more than $860.

Cullen said higher prices are leading more people to, “Comparison shopping online, shopping for sales more often, thinking about switching up the brands or products they’re buying — either looking for different substitutes, or buying a store brand or a generic product.”

Back to college shopping is expected to total nearly $74 billion, up $3 billion from last year. Almost half of the increase comes from electronics and furnishings for dorms and apartments. 

The survey, conducted in early July, also found 56% of respondents had already started back to class shopping with 85% indicating at least half of their shopping still to do. The National Retail Federation said the survey conducted with Prosper Insights & Analytics included 7,830 consumers and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.