Back-to-school spending to rise, Wal-Mart offers teachers cash back

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

Wal-Mart Stores is offering teachers across the country 10% savings on classroom supplies. The retail giant kicked off the campaign in its hometown of Bentonville on Monday (July 21) by presenting the local school district with a $1,000 gift card and surprised each Bentonville teacher with a $25 gift card and a basket of school supplies.

Wal-Mart’s research indicates that 53% of teachers received less in funding last year, which was the catalyst for this year’s event. The retail giant has donated more than $20 million to U.S. educators in the last five years.

Teachers who shop at Walmart stores during its Teacher Appreciation Week (July 25 to 31) are eligible to receive a Walmart eGift Card for 10% back on nearly 15,000 products.

“On average, teachers around the country spend about $1,000 readying their classrooms, and half of that comes from reaching into their own wallets to make sure students have what they need,” said Steve Bratspies, executive vice president, general merchandise for Walmart U.S. “We’ve had a commitment to supporting teachers in the communities we serve for many years. This program is one more way we’re helping lessen the cost, increase support and set teachers up for success.”

The program allows teachers who shop for supplies between July 25 and July 31 to register their receipts online by Aug. 15. By entering the teacher’s school information and receipt transaction code, the retailer can calculate the savings on eligible items and deliver an e-gift card within 14 days of submitting the receipt online.

BIG BUCKS
What’s in it for Walmart? A lot. The National Retail Federation reports that consumers will spend $26.5 billion on back-to-school items this summer. The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5% from $634.78 last year, according to the NRF release.

“Slow improvements in the economy may have contributed to the growth in confidence among back-to-school shoppers, and while we are encouraged by the overall tone of the results and expect to see continued improvement in consumer spending through the year, we know Americans are still grappling with their purchase decisions every day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

He said spending has fluctuated based on family needs each year, and this summer, parents are expected to spend cautiously, as they make decisions for their family budget that is a balance between what their children want and what they need.  

Retailers look forward to this event as it’s one of the biggest spending occasions of the year. The survey found parents ready to spend more on what’s needed. Overall, every category will see an increase in spending. According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers will spend an average of $212.35 on electronic items, up 7% from $199.05 last year. 

SPENDING PATTERNS
High school students and their families specifically will spend an average of $229.88 on electronic items. As school districts’ requests for classroom supply contribution rise, spending on school supplies will increase 12% to an average of $101.18, compared to $90.49 last year. 

Households will also spend an average of $231.30 on clothes, up from $230.85, and $124.46 on shoes, up from $114.39 in 2013.

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Department stores, discount stores, drug stores and electronics stores are all expecting more sales this year. According to the NRF survey, 64.4% of consumers will visit discount stores, 59.1% will shop at their favorite department store, 38.2% will shop online, 27.5% will shop at electronics stores, and 20.5% will shop at drug stores.

For the first time, NRF asked school shoppers about their plans to shop at local, small businesses for their needs, and 17.4% said they plan to support local, small retailer to buy school items.

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