Economists Expect Families To Spend Billions More On School Supplies This Year

Sunday, July 25th 2021, 10:18 pm
By: Ashlyn Brothers

TULSA, Oklahoma -

A few cents here and a few cents there add up quickly when shopping for the family. Economists said back-to-school shoppers might as we get closer to the first day of class. 

The National Retail Federation is expecting families to spend more than $37 billion in school supplies in 2021, which is a $3 billion jump from last year. 

As of June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said consumer prices climbed 5.4% over the last year which is the nation's highest 12-month inflation increase since August 2008.

Shopper Paula Becker is feeling the effects.

"Prices are going up with everything,” Becker said. “That's gas, clothing, groceries.”

Northeastern University marketing professor Jon Shapiro said inflation in an economy is inevitable. Shapiro believes there are a few factors causing the sticker shock.

"It's hard to predict a market when there's so many unpredictable variables," Shapiro said.  

For one, Shapiro said the government has been printing a lot of federal stimulus checks. There's a pent-up demand to buy things following the COVID-19 lockdown. What we're seeing can be considered a domino effect.

There's a nationwide shortage of workers. Many of the products aren't being manufactured in the same quantity.

A shortage of truckers is a roadblock in getting the products to the market.

"You're thinking about families, schools starting back. It's very important," Becker said. "A couple dollars here and there makes a big difference for them."

Economists said this is affecting the cost of school supplies, clothing, travel as well as technology.

Some products may be a few cents more, some a few dollars extra. The National Retail Federation's annual survey shows families with kids in elementary through 12th grade plan to spend on average about $848 on back-to-school items.

"On a global level, the solution is better health policies,” Shapiro said. “That we become healthier. We're able to hire more workers. In some cases, pay them more.” 

Shapiro said it can be tricky territory because, while increasing the pay of lower wage jobs is an incentive for employees, it will also lead to a surge in prices.

For now, Becker's list is stacked with needs versus wants.

"There's some little things that I used to do for myself that I've cut that out," Becker said.