Coronavirus Could Push Back-To-School Spending to Record Level as Uncertain Families Gear Up for At-Home Learning

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WASHINGTON—Consumers tentatively plan to spend a record amount to prepare students for school and college this year as they buy more laptops and computer accessories in anticipation that at least some classes will take place online because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the annual survey released this week by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“By any measure, this is an unprecedented year with great uncertainty, including how students will get their education this fall whether they are in kindergarten or college,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Most parents don’t know whether their children will be sitting in a classroom or in front of a computer in the dining room, or a combination of the two. But they do know the value of an education and are navigating uncertainty and unknowns so that students are prepared.”

Parents with children in elementary school through high school say they plan to spend an average $789.49 per family, topping the previous record of $696.70 they said they would spend last year. Spending is expected to total $33.9 billion, up from $26.2 billion last year and breaking the record of $30.3 billion set in 2012.

College students and their families expect to spend an average $1,059.20 per family, which would top last year’s record of $976.78. College spending is expected to total $67.7 billion, up from $54.5 billion last year and breaking the record of $55.3 billion set in 2018.

Of those expecting students to be at home, 72 percent believe they will need to buy items like computers, home furnishings or other supplies to accommodate learning. The survey found 36 percent expect to buy laptops, 22 percent computer speakers/headphones, 21 percent other accessories such as a mouse or flash drive, and 17 percent printers. A similar 17 percent plan to buy non-computer items including calculators, furniture like a desk or chair, and workbooks.

Click here to read the full story from the National Retail Federation.