The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is forecasting that total sales for the back-to-school season will increase to $42.2 billion in 2013, a year-over-year rise of 3.1%. That predicted figure is approximately the average annual increase over the past decade, although lower than the 3.6% jump from 2012. “Overall spending will be more tepid this season than the last few years,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist,” but it doesn’t imply that the back-to-school season will be bad.”
Families with school-age children are likely to spend, on average, $635 on apparel, shoes, electronics and supplies, down from $688.62 last year, according to a survey of shoppers released by the National Retail Federation. Following a subpar earnings season for many retailers, analysts believe major stores will opt to offer more discounts in the final shopping days before the school year begins. That’s largely because revenue at stores open at least a year – a closely-watched metric – edged up just 3.5% in July, the slowest pace since March, according to ICSC data.
In the ad specialty industry this back-to-school season, a sampling of distributors contacted for this article also reports an average year for revenues in the education sector. “Back-to-school sales are about the same as last year in terms of overall sales volume,” said Robert Fiveash, president of Virginia-based Brand Fuel (asi/145025). “One change we’ve seen this year is that many buyers are turning towards hard goods like cups, keychains, flashlights, and other inexpensive giveaways versus the nicer and more expensive apparel of the past. It remains to be seen whether this is a trend or just a blip this year.”
Meanwhile Teresa Moisant, owner of Moisant Promotional Products (asi/275276), has seen more opportunities for corporate or business tie-in programs this year. “Most school districts have a meeting or luncheon in mid-August for all teachers and several corporate accounts do items,” she said. “Often it’s the Chamber of Commerce that works with the school district to ensure there are goodies for the teachers.”