PhotoEven though a lot of kids are already back in the classroom, the annual survey conducted for the National Retail Federation (NRF) by Prosper Insights & Analytics shows many families still have a lot of shopping left to do.

According to the survey, the average family with children in grades K-12 had completed only 45% of their shopping as of early August compared with a peak of 52% at the same time in 2013 and 48% last year.

“Parents this year have been taking longer than usual to finish buying the clothing and supplies their children need for school,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Many kids are already getting on the bus and millions more will be back in class in another week or two, so anybody who hasn’t finished shopping by now is cutting it close.”

The art of putting it off

Of parents surveyed August 1-9, only 13% had completed all their shopping, and 23% hadn't even started. These results come despite the fact that 27% of parents had said they planned to start shopping at least two months before the start of the school year, an increase from last year's 22%.

NRF projects families will spend $83.6 billion on back-to-school this year -- including $29.5 billion on K-12 and $54.1 billion on college.

K-12 shopping

Among K-12 parents, 79% said they still needed to buy basic supplies such as pencils and paper, followed by 75% who need to buy apparel and 58% who still need to buy shoes.

To wrap up their buying, 55% planned to head to department stores, 49% to discount stores, 39% to clothing stores, 35% to office supply stores, and 33% online.

According to the survey, 61% of school supply purchases were influenced by school requirements, while 41% of electronics purchases were dictated by what schools required.

“Similar to recent years, some of the big-ticket items are being significantly influenced by school requirements,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “That is why we are seeing many parents take their time in tackling their lists so they can take advantage of any special promotions that can help them save on items such as laptops and computers.”

Shopping for college

Overall results for college students were largely the same, with students and their parents saying they, too, had completed 45% of their shopping, down 3% from last year and the lowest level since the 44% reported in 2011.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said they still needed to purchase school supplies, followed by clothing (51%) and shoes (33%).

The survey, which asked 7,248 consumers about both back-to-school and back-to-college shopping plans, was conducted August 1-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

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