What’s trending in back-to-college shopping

NRF’s research shows increases in planned spending on electronic accessories and furniture
Kyle Davies
NRF Research
August 4, 2022

As summer comes to an end and students return to campus, NRF has some key insights into back-to-college shopping trends. In total, spending is expected to reach $73.9 billion — a $2.8 billion increase from last year — and consumers are planning to spend an average of $1,199.43 per household.

Electronics remain important

Although remote learning is on the retreat, spending on electronics still makes up a considerable portion of college students’ budgets. Expected total spending for 2022 is $18.5 billion and average spending is projected to be $299.96.

College students’ demand for electronics has shifted away from big-ticket items as they opt for accessories to accompany the computers they purchased at the onset of the pandemic. In fact, only 54 percent of back-to-college shoppers said they were planning on purchasing a laptop, down from last year and the lowest it has been since 2017. Instead, greater percentages of consumers report they plan to purchase electronic accessories and fitness trackers or watches.

Back to college

Learn more about the latest consumer spending habits for the upcoming back to school season.

The new essentials

Students are making their way back to campus after learning remotely. This year, 59 percent plan to live away from home, whether it be in a dorm, apartment, or sorority or fraternity house, up from 55 percent last year, and spending is increasing on dorm and apartment furnishings. Projected total spending is $10.5 billion, significantly up from $9.7 billion in 2021, and the percent of back-to-college shoppers planning to purchase dorm and apartment furnishings is at its highest in the history of the survey at 57 percent.

Consumers have not only changed their spending on essential items — shoe sales have been steadily increasing: 78 percent of all back-to-college shoppers are planning to buy shoes for the upcoming school year. Since 2007, average expected spending on shoes has increased by $42.44. Projected spending for 2022 is an average of $102.35 per household and $6.3 billion total.

However, shoe spending is not equal across income groups: 82 percent of consumers in households making upwards of $50,000 reported that they were planning on buying shoes, while only 72 percent of households making less than $50,000 said the same. While lower-income households are projected to decrease shoe spending by $11.82 compared with last year, higher-income households are on track to increase spending by $11.

From my own experience as a college student, much of the shopping may be last minute — and I’m not alone: 28 percent of college shoppers wait until the last two weeks before school to start their purchases. For more back-to-school and college updates throughout the season, check out NRF’s back-to-class landing page.

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