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Back-to-School shopping is big business

Whether it’s high school or elementary, between school supplies, clothes, extra-curricular activity fees, and additional course fees, going back to school can cost a pretty parental penny but shopping special back to school sales can help ease
the expense.Photo by Jill Penley

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

It’s that time of year. Much to the chagrin of students, teachers, and parents alike, it is time to head back to the classroom. While students may dread the return to strict bedtimes and homework, parents have to worry about paying for back-to-school shopping, which has become expensive big business.
The bulk of back-to-school shopping took place during tax-free weekends, especially
since both Tennessee and Virginia’s dates were just before school resuming for fall semester.
Tennessee law provides for a sales tax holiday each year during the last weekend in July.
“This is an important savings opportunity for everyone,” Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano said.
Back-to-school represents the second-largest shopping season of the year, trailing only the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, parents will spend $26.2 billion on K-12 back-to-school necessities this year. That’s an average $696.70 per child, up 5 percent from last year’s $684.79. Elementary school kids cost the least, with high school kids nearing the top of the estimates.
“Consumers are in a strong position given the nation’s growing economy, and we see this reflected in what they say they will spend on back-to-class items this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We’re expecting record spending and retailers are ready to provide students with all the items they need for a successful school year.”
School supplies make up 94 percent of purchases with clothing and accessories following close behind making up 92 percent. Ninety percent of back-to-school shopping is spent on shoes, and the remaining is spent on electronics.
Parents won’t be bearing the increased spending alone, the survey found. Teens and pre-teens are expected to spend more of their own money on back-to-school goods than students their age did ten years ago.
“Members of Generation Z are clearly becoming more involved with back-to-school purchasing decisions rather than leaving the choices up to mom and dad,” Shay said. “Over the years, both teens and pre-teens are spending more of their own money on back-to-school items.
In addition to parents and teens, the majority of teachers reach into their own pockets for classroom decorations and supplies. Ninety-four percent of U.S. public school teachers say they’ve paid for school supplies without reimbursement. The average amount was $479, according to a report prepared by the National Center for Education Statistics based on a nationally representative survey of teachers during the 2015-2016 school year.
An unofficial survey found parents in Johnson County spend $50-$75 on average for supplies for each student, not including clothes or electronics.