2023 Back-to-College Spending Expected to Increase 27%

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Back-to-College Shopping Trends: A Deep Dive into Record-Breaking Expenditures 

As the summer sun begins to wane, the anticipation of a new college year emerges. The back-to-college shopping season is once again upon us, and this year, it’s making waves with projected record-breaking spending levels. The National Retail Federation (NRF) has unveiled a comprehensive report detailing the anticipated trends in consumer spending, offering valuable insights into the shopping behaviors and preferences of students and their families. We’ll take a deeper look at the key subjects from the NRF report, highlighting the factors driving this surge in expenditure and the categories that are expected to see the most significant growth.  

Overall, 2023 back-college spending is expected to increase 27% to $94 billion.  To put this perspective, in 2019, spending was $55 billion. 


Setting the Stage for Record Spending 

According to the NRF’s report, the upcoming back-to-college shopping season is primed to reach unprecedented heights in terms of spending. The data suggests that students and families are gearing up to invest substantially in various aspects of college life, signaling a renewed sense of enthusiasm as campuses reopen for in-person learning. 

Notable Spending Categories 

  1. Technology Dominance: Undoubtedly, the spotlight is on technology-related purchases. The report highlights a remarkable increase in the demand for tech gadgets and devices, including laptops, tablets, and accessories. This shift reflects the modern student’s reliance on digital tools for coursework, research, and communication. 
  1. Dorm Room Transformations: As students prepare to return to campus, they’re eager to personalize their living spaces. Dorm room furnishings, from bedding and furniture to decor and storage solutions, are expected to witness a significant uptick in spending, as students aim to create comfortable and inspiring environments. 
  1. Fashion Revival: With campuses reopening, students are embracing the opportunity to refresh their wardrobes. Clothing, footwear, and accessories are projected to be key spending categories, as students seek to make a stylish and confident return to campus life. Especially with the dominance of TikTok, students are striving to start the school year with the trendiest, most flattering items. 
  1. Study Essentials: Despite the digital age, traditional school supplies remain a staple in the back-to-college shopping list. Calculators, for example, remain a fundamental item in a STEM major’s bag. Additionally, notebooks, writing instruments, planners, and backpacks continue to be essential items for students embarking on their academic journeys with a classic approach.  

Driving Factors 

There are several reasons that contribute to the expected surge in back-to-college spending. The shift from remote learning to in-person classes is a major catalyst, as students eagerly prepare to engage in campus activities and forge meaningful connections. The improving economic climate, with increased job opportunities and disposable income, is empowering families to invest more generously in their students’ education and well-being. 

The NRF’s insightful report offers a comprehensive glimpse into the upcoming back-to-college shopping season, revealing a promising landscape of record-breaking spending. As students and families prepare to embrace the return to campus life, various categories, including technology, dorm room furnishings, fashion, and school supplies, are poised to see remarkable growth. The blend of changing educational dynamics, economic optimism, and student enthusiasm paints a vibrant picture of the back-to-college shopping trends for the year ahead. Retailers and consumers alike can anticipate an exhilarating season of exploration, expression, and preparation. 

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