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Back to School: Survey shows parents expect to spend more this year

Anchorage mom, Chelsea Pohland picking out backpacks and other Back to School supplies for her...
Anchorage mom, Chelsea Pohland picking out backpacks and other Back to School supplies for her three kids.(Taylor Clark)
Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While some are choosing to continue keeping the kids at home this year, many parents are ecstatic about sending their students off to school again. While they stock up on the things they need, new data shows that parents are expecting to spend a little bit more money this year when compared to last.

KPMG, a major financial and accounting consulting firm, took a survey with 1,000 parents across the country to learn more about how they felt the pandemic would affect their back-to-school spending. 335 of them said they would be making purchases in anticipation of the new year.

On average, the survey says that parents are expecting to spend about $268 per student in 2021. In 2020, it was $247 per student.

However, how much more parents are expecting to spend depends on what age group their children are in. The survey shows that preschoolers and college students have a much higher expected spending cost than others.

Preschool parents are expecting to spend up to 32% more than last year and college students, up to 13%. Middle and high school students, on the other hand, are only expecting 3% and 4%, respectively.

KPMG Consumer and Retail Advisory Leader Scott Rankin explained that those children’s parents are expecting to spend more because they were the most likely to have not needed as many new supplies as last year. Preschoolers may have not gone to school at all, and many college campuses were using all online formats in 2020.

“Because they weren’t showing up first day, they didn’t need to look good, they didn’t need to have binders and dividers and paper for every single subject the way that they normally would have going into a school year,” Rankin said.

The pencils, paper, and crayons aren’t what’s driving those prices up the most, Rankin said. He said new backpacks, outfits, shoes, and other apparel are the main sources of the expected spending increase.

For example, parents are expecting to spend 21% more on footwear for their kids this year. Although, supplies are generally more expensive as well according to Mari Wood, Vice President of Arctic Office Products in Anchorage.

Wood said that COVID-19 upset the supply chain greatly. Retailers didn’t know if students would be going back to school while planning for the shopping season.

“The pandemic took care of making supplies short because everybody was staying home there wasn’t a lot of stuff bought,” Wood said.

She added that raw material costs also play a role. She said because of steel price increases, it’s much harder for her to stock up on scissors for example. She said she’s also had to make it through three price increases on those products over the last year with more expected in the fall.

While parents will still find sale stickers on many must-have items for school, Rankin said parents shouldn’t be surprised if it’s a little bit harder to save some money this year.

“Because they don’t have a lot of inventory, they’re being less aggressive in terms of promotions, discounts, coupons offers,” Rankin said.

Another key finding of the survey, Rankin said, was that parents continue to gravitate more toward online shopping when stocking up for the school year.

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