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Electronics keys this year’s back-to-school spending

With ongoing uncertainty about the school year, families are prioritizing more technology in this year’s back-to-school budgets to accommodate online and distance learning.

Despite a degree of uncertainty surrounding the coming school year, parents and students throughout Nevada are stocking up on school supplies, electronics and clothes during the back-to-school shopping season. The Retail Association of Nevada estimates that back-to-school shoppers will spend $434.9 million to prepare for the new school year.

This year’s back-to-school planning has a much different look than years past because of social distancing measures in place. In turn, back-to-school spending is expected to reach historic levels because of increased purchases of electronics for distance learning.

Given the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot is still unknown about how and when K-12 schools across the state will start the fall semester, but there will be significant changes to accommodate social distancing, enhanced cleaning and reduced sharing of classroom school supplies. Colleges, including the University of Nevada campuses in Reno and Las Vegas and the College of Southern Nevada, are expecting to start the school year Aug. 24 with similar social distancing measures in place.

RAN projects $310.3 million will be spent shopping for Nevada’s K-12 students, up 14.7% from last year. With increased in-home lessons and distance learning likely, electronics are expected to be the largest spending category at $107.9 million. Spending on clothing and accessories is projected to be second at $92.2 million, followed by shoes ($58.6 million) and school supplies ($51.6 million).

“Nevada’s retailers are preparing for the multiple scenarios Nevada families are facing as they prepare for the start of the school year,” said Bryan Wachter, senior vice president of RAN. “We’re seeing a much greater need than ever before for technology to help students be successful in remote or hybrid learning environments, and we fully expect a lot of shopping to take place online; our brick-and-mortar retailers, too, can expect a busy back-to-school season, especially when families need supplies fast to accommodate final school reopening plans.”

Nationally, families with students in grades K-12 will spend an estimated $33.9 billion, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, with average spending per household expected to be $789, up from $697 last year.

With more than 117,000 students enrolled in public and private colleges throughout Nevada, RAN estimates spending for students heading back to college will reach $124.7 million. Electronics are expected to be the largest spending category at $30.8 million, followed by clothing and accessories ($17.5 million), dorm and apartment furnishings ($15.3 million) and food ($13.1 million).

Nationwide, the NRF reports spending for college students is projected to reach $67.7 billion, with the average household spending $1,059. College spending estimates rose from last year’s estimate of $977.

Back-to-school shoppers reported shifting more spending to online outlets because of the coronavirus. K-12 shoppers reported online retailers as their most popular destination at 55.0%, while 43.0% of college shoppers planned to shop online.

Discount stores have become the second most popular destination for college students going back to school, with 30.0% of shoppers planning to shop there.

K-12 shoppers reported department stores as their second favorite destination (37.0%). Back-to-school shoppers can expect elevated activity in the coming weeks as 68% of K-12 shoppers and 60 percent of college shoppers plan to get their shopping done at least three weeks before school begins.

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