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Grab Your Share of Back-to-College Shopping

August 3rd, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Maria Valdez Haubrich recently blogged on this site about back-to-school shopping projections and what they mean for your small business. But back-to-college shopping is an even more profitable part of the back-to-school equation. The National Retail Federation/BIG Insight Survey recently took a look at how college spending is shaping up, with some insights into how your small business can grab your share of college students’ dollars.

Overall, the survey notes, back-to-school and college spending is projected to hit $83.8 billion this year, making it the second biggest consumer spending season for retailers (after the winter holidays). Back-to-college spending will account for $53.5 billion of that total. College students and their families will spend an average of $907.22 on everything from dorm furniture to school supplies and personal care items; that’s an increase from $808.71 last year.

Although they will be spending more than last year, 80 percent of college shoppers say the economy is affecting their budgets. To save, more shoppers will go online, more will use catalogs and more will use the Internet to comparison shop. More college-age students will also be making do with last year’s furnishings, clothes and school supplies.

What are the hottest product categories? Almost three-quarters (74.2 percent) of back-to-college shoppers plan to buy apparel and accessories, spending an average of $132.97. Electronics are also popular: 54.0 percent will buy a new computer, MP3 player, smartphone or other device, up from 45.8 percent last year, spending an average $216.40.

Dorm furnishings are in demand this year, with students spending an average of $100.27 on this category. With more children planning to live in a dorm this year (25.9 percent, up from 18.1 percent last year), spending in this area is poised to grow.

One big trend: College shoppers are spreading out spending, with an eye out for bargains between now and the start of school (or even after school begins). Nearly one-third (31.9 percent) will start shopping three weeks to one month before school starts, but almost 10 percent are waiting until after school starts.

Discounts and deals are still the way to college consumers’ hearts. Shoppers have an eye out for bargains, and the NRF suggests offering bundles, free gifts and gift cards with purchase, and free online shipping as ways to attract these value-focused consumers.

Image by Flickr user poeloq (Creative Commons)

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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