Consumer confidence rises in back-to-school season

STAMFORD — Back-to-school shopping sales nationwide are projected to increase between 3.7 percent and 4.1 percent over last year’s level, according to a new study by Stamford consumer-financial services firm Synchrony Financial.

The increasing activity reflects growing confidence among parents about their finances and expected gains in electronics and clothing spending.

“There’s a lot of optimism out there among parents of K-12 kids — they think their financial situation is better,” said Sue Yasav, Synchrony’s vice president of thought leadership and market insights. “It is an encouraging sign in terms of overall spending and what we can anticipate for the back-to-school shopping season.”

Seventy-five percent of parents of children in grades kindergarten through 12th said they feel confident about their job. In the same group, 63 percent said their household financial situation has improved this year, a jump of 10 points over last year’s level.

Clothing, shoes, electronics and supplies represent the majority of parents’ expected purchases this year.

Forty-five percent said they plan to spend more on computers, and 41 percent anticipate increasing their clothing purchases. Nearly half foresee spending more because of larger supply lists.

Parents foresee spending an average of about $183 on clothes, $117 on computers and other electronics and $112 on shoes.

E-commerce continues to gain traction: Some 43 percent of parents said they intend to make online purchases.

The Synchrony study was conducted last month among 1,850 parents nationwide.

For families who have not completed their shopping, Connecticut’s sales-tax-free week running this week until Saturday would offer further encouragement.

“That could be a good opportunity for retailers to pick up a lot of sales from students and parents who’ve waited until the week before school to do the bulk of their shopping,” Yasav said.

In the Stamford school district, back-to-school costs can vary across schools and grade levels. Educators encourage parents to check the websites of their children’s respective schools for details about supplies.

In a district in which about half of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, school officials said they are mindful of back-to-school costs. The school system provides access to necessary electronic devices, such as desktop computers and iPads. Out-of-pocket costs generally do not exceed those for items such as graphing calculators and jump drives.

Teachers work with guidance counselors, social workers and administrators to identify and assist students who might need support in buying supplies.

Parent-teacher organizations’ fundraisers, other local nonprofits’ initiatives and corporate donations also help to fill the gaps.

“I am so impressed by our community agencies providing support to our families, through different programs that donate backpacks and other supplies,” said Tamu Lucero, the Stamford school district’s assistant superintendent at the elementary level. “To see the amount of support from those agencies is commendable.”; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

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