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US Back-to-School 2018 Retail Outlook: Shoppers Look Ready to Spend

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Coresight Research

Key Points

  • We expect US back-to-school sales to increase by 3.0%–4.0% this year. The economic backdrop for US back-to-school spending is strong. Positive economic indicators include a low unemployment rate, higher consumer sentiment, strong wage growth, higher housing prices, lower savings rates, total US retail increases and more tax-free shopping dates. Negative indicators include higher gas prices and slower growth in apparel as a portion of total retail sales.
  • The National Retail Federation (NRF) takes a more pessimistic view than we do. It expects total back-to-school spending to fall short of last year’s spending by 1% to $82.8 billion in 2018, which will mark the third-highest-ever back-to-school spending level.
  • Apparel and electronics are the two strongest categories in both back-to-school and back-to-college spending. E-commerce is set to make strong gains this year, with surveys finding a 10-percentage-point jump in shoppers opting to buy online.
  • Most e-commerce back-to-school sales happen during the week, and brick-and-mortar stores see their most back-to-school shoppers on weekends. The busiest back-to-school shopping period is early August, followed closely by late July.
  • Consumers are focused on finding discounts. Competition amongst retailers is growing, and retailers are seeking to draw customers through convenience.
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