Families will spend billions on school supplies

With the school bell about to ring, shoppers are stocking up

UNC REX Healthcare hosted a "Stuff the Bus" event to gather donations of school supplies for students and teachers in need in Wake County. Photograph courtesy of UNC REX Healthcare

RALEIGH — According to the annual survey released recently by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics, families will spend an average of $687.79 on school supplies this month. Total spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion, nearly as high as last year’s $83.6 billion.

“With the economy thriving thanks to tax reform and growing consumer confidence, we expect to see a very strong season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “College spending is expected to be at its highest level ever, and back-to-school will be one of the three highest years on record. Whether shoppers buy now or wait until the last minute, retailers are ready with everything they need for a successful start of the school year.”

The average spending per family is up only slightly compared to last year, but the total spending impact of school supplies comes to a whopping $27.5 billion nationwide and the third-highest total in the history of the survey, following a peak of $30.3 billion in 2012.

The spending is triggered in part by supply lists that schools began distributing in the 1980s, encouraging parents to help stock the classroom, in addition to the child’s backpack.

Gov. Roy Cooper has called for teachers to receive a $150 taxpayer-paid stipend for supplies annually, and his office is coordinating school supply drives at State Employee Credit Unions and area businesses. The N.C. General Assembly included $47 million in the state’s base budget for school supplies and instructional equipment.