They may roll their eyes, have cooties, and never admit they started it, but kids are really good at making you buy them things—and that may be key to jumpstarting a stagnant retail industry.

With the return to in-person education, total back-to-school spending in the US will hit a record $37.1 billion this year, up from $33.9 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. Families with children in elementary- through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school supplies, a $59 increase over last year.

Retail could use the spark

Retail sales fell more than expected (-1.1%) in July, the Commerce Department said yesterday. That dip can likely be explained by concerns over the Delta variant keeping consumers at home, as well as a broader shift in spending from goods to services during the summer.

  • Walmart and Home Depot, which both reported earnings yesterday, revealed a slowdown in sales growth from earlier this year.
  • And remember, consumer sentiment plunged to its lowest level since 2011 last month.

Plus, we’re in a pandemic

And that means things cost more and there’s not enough of them.

  • Thanks to inflation, consumers should expect to pay 10%–15% more compared to last year for apparel, according to USA Today.
  • Chalk, wooden block sets, and dry-erase markers are in short supply due to shipping delays and other supply chain hiccups, according to the Washington Post.
  • Even worse, a Cincinnati-area Walmart ran out of all Disney backpacks.

On the bright side…if Walmart is any indication (it is), the back-to-school shopping season has started off with a bang. The retailer said its stores were busy with parents buying backpacks, lunch boxes, and other school supplies for their kids, and even raised its revenue outlook for the year. — NF