Uncertain times impact back-to-school spending

July and August traditionally mean back-to-school shopping. But, this year, as school districts hold off on making final decisions about in-person learning and remote instruction, or plan to start the school year with remote learning, or tentatively plan for a hybrid approach, or head toward fully opening schools with safety precautions in place, is far from traditional.

The uncertainty around how to open the school year is reflected in the decisions parents and students are facing when thinking about school supplies. Some districts are advising families to hold off buying supplies until a final decision is made about re-opening. Some parents are considering buying multiple sets of school supplies because they’re not comfortable with transferring supplies from the school environment to the home environment. Then there’s the realization that schools will most likely be eliminating the communal supplies shared in classrooms. And the biggest factor might be the expectation that at least some classes will be online, leading to more purchases of technology like laptops, tablets and headphones.

According to the annual survey from the National Retail Federation conducted in early July, back to school spending could hit a record if parents continue stocking up on those laptops and other technology. The survey shows that parents of elementary through high school students plan to spend an average $789.49 per family; the previous record was $696.70. Total spending this year is expected to be $33.9 billion, compared to $26.2 billion last year and the $30.3 billion record set in 2012.

Sixty three percent of families with K-12 students expect to buy computers and other electronics in 2020, up from 54 percent last year. They expect to spend more, $274.44 on average compared to $203.44 last year.

Spending on the usual school supplies like paper, pens and pencils is expected to average $131.37, up from $117.49 last year. And, the amount parents plan to spend on clothing is down only slightly at $234.48 compared to 2019’s 239.82, since K-12 students are growing whether they’re in school or at home. With concerns about in-store safety and convenience, more than half of those shopping for school supplies plan to buy online.

For one of DSC Logistics, now CJ Logistics America’s, customers with products in the traditional back-to-school category, inventory generally increases in March/April with heavy sales mid-June through August. This year, inventory volumes that were down approximately 15 percent in January-June compared to 2019 are now increasing to meet the demands of back-to-school shopping.

In the uncertain times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – for back-to-school shoppers, and for the entire US supply chain – DSC/CJ operations continue to function at high levels of efficiency and service. “Our clearly established protocols, prioritizing employee health and safety, are ensuring that staffing remains stable,” said Aaron Dumbauld, Director, Strategic Partnerships. “We’re controlling costs for customers while adjusting to their variable volume levels.”

Click here to learn how we work with our CPG customers to prevent supply chain disruption during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact us for more information on our supply chain solutions.

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