Retailers began their “back-to-school” push earlier this year, but the National Retail Federation expects consumers will shell out $54 less per family this year compared to 2012.

A survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics indicates families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year.

Total spending on back-to-school items is expected to reach $26.7 billion, but that does not include back-to-college.

“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind. Having splurged on their growing children’s needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season.” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

“As they continue to grapple with the impact of increased payroll taxes, Americans will look to cut corners where they can, but will buy what their kids need. It’s important to note, however, that spending levels are still well above where they were a few years ago,” he said.

Apparel retailers will get the lion’s share of the budget, as 95% of consumers with school-age children will spend an average of $230 on fall clothes and denim.

Another $114 will be spent on shoes and $90 toward school supplies. Roughly half of the families surveyed plan to purchase electronics, new tablets or smart phones, which are slightly cheaper than a year ago.

Shay said 80% of the respondents said they are scaling back because of economic conditions. One in three said they would turn to the Internet to do comparative shopping in hopes of saving some money.

With much of the country returning to school in just four to six weeks, that is only two or three pay cycles for many families.
 Roughly half of the respondents said they would shop within one month to three weeks ahead of the first day of school in their areas.

“We continue to see a shift in shopping patterns during big spending events, where consumers typically head out early to take advantage of fresh inventory options and initial markdowns, then see a lull only to rev back up again when final sales appear,” said Prosper Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow.

“They are hoping to spread out their budgets but still reap the benefits of getting the products their children want at the best values.”

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The City Wire Staff

The City Wire Staff

The City Wire, a content partner with Talk Business & Politics, is a media company that covers business, politics and culture in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas regions of the state. Read online at TheCityWire.com or follow on Twitter: @TheCityWire.