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Experts forecast increased spending on school supplies

The National Retail Federation is expecting spending for K-12 and college students to increase by more than $3.2 billion as students return to in-person learning.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Families are preparing to send their children back to in-person learning after the pandemic impacted classroom attendance last year.

The National Retail Federation forecasted a boost in spending this year. In all, nationwide spending is expected to hit $37.1 billion, up $3.2 billion, over the previous school year.

For college, it’s up about $3.3 billion.

Credit: 10TV
Credit: 10TV

Katherine Cullen is the Senior Director of Industry and Consumer Insights at the National Retail Federation. She said part of it is because families are expecting to take place in the building this year. 

“Kids need different things than they needed last year. They need backpacks, lunch boxes, uniforms, if they wear uniforms, new clothes and of course electronics,” Cullen said. 

The NRF says 49% of families surveyed in July plan to buy a laptop, 32% a calculator and 31% a tablet.

Credit: 10TV

The retail industry has been plagued by the pandemic’s supply-chain troubles, but Cullen said retailers considered this prior to the school year shopping.

“They know back-to-school is a big time of year so many of them are working to get in place well before this summer,” she said. "They have also been looking at alternate shipping routes, flying items in or bringing them in to different ports. Some of that, at points, can be costly, and retailers sometimes have to pass the costs on to consumers.”

Cullen said economists expect the issues to be temporary.

Despite costs and spending increasing, those who were surveyed tell the NRF they are ready to return to school.

“I know there is a lot of uncertainty right now with some of the new variants, but what we are hearing from families is that they are really excited about back to school this year,” said Cullen. “We are hearing from families that their kids are really excited to pick out new clothes to have some of those familiar traditions that maybe they couldn’t partake in last year.”

A family from Gahanna said their grandniece and grandnephew can’t wait to go back to class and meet new friends

Joseph Fridley told 10TV he has purchased all his school supplies early for his 10-year-old grandniece and 8-year-old grandnephew. His 73-year-old mother now has custody of his grandniece and grandnephew after an unforeseen situation with their parents.

“Clothes, that’s been difficult this year because a lot of the clothes in their sizes, because of the covid pandemic, are hard to find,” said Fridley. “Shortages are everywhere right now.”

Credit: 10TV

Fridley started shopping over the last few weeks, watching major retailers for deals, saving his large purchases for Ohio’s tax-free holiday.

“This weekend, every year I take them shopping for back to school. I take them one at time. I can’t take them both,” he said.

Fridley said he immediately starts looking for new clothing deals for halfway through the school year.

“We will replenish probably around Christmas time to get some more clothes but they got a good start for the first few months."

If you have your school’s list and have time to shop during Ohio’s Tax-Free Weekend you can take advantage of no sales and use tax. To qualify for the tax holiday the sale must fall between August 6 at 12:00 a.m. and August 8 at 11:59.

Clothing items under $75, school supplies and other instructional material priced at $20 or less are eligible, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. Trade or business items do not qualify.

The Department of Taxation has answers to frequently asked questions on the sales tax holiday, for more information, click here.

The Franklin County Veterans Service Commission offers a free school supplies program for dependents of eligible veterans. Each qualified dependent will receive a $60 gift card from Meijer to be applied towards back-to-school shopping.