North Texas Parents May Be More Open to Buying That Superhero Backpack for Their Kiddos This School Year

Dallas-Fort Worth parents plan to spend more than the national average and start shopping sooner — in July — as they prepare to send more than 1 million North Texas students back to K-12 classrooms next month.

D-FW parents said they plan to spend an average of $530 on back-to-school supplies, apparel and electronics, which is more than the $501 national average, according to a survey from Deloitte.

Local parents are also more optimistic about the economy than their national counterparts and have a bigger preference for shopping in stores while doing research online, said Eric Vroonland, principal in Deloitte’s strategy and operations practice.

That’s good for retailers that are rolling out new services and capabilities in stores and online for back-to-school, the second most important shopping season after Christmas. The National Retail Federation has forecast K-12 spending will exceed $29.5 billion and when combined with college spending will total $83.6 billion, up 10 percent from last year.

Eric Vroonland, principal in the Dallas office of Deloitte s Strategy & Operations practice.

Wal-Mart has added 700 back-to-school items to its online grocery pick-up service which is available at 50 of its North Texas stores, and it expanded the number of back-to-school items to its same-day, in-store pickup service. Wal-Mart is also bringing back its “helpers,” a service it offered for the first time last holiday season. Store staffers designated as helpers direct customers to the shortest checkout line and will fetch an item shoppers realize they forgot.

J.C. Penney has waived its $25 minimum purchase for free shipping to stores and upgraded its mobile app in time for back-to-school. It’s giving shoppers $10 coupons for downloading the app.

About 21 percent of Dallas shoppers surveyed said they plan to do more in-store shopping than last year, according to the survey results based on responses from 400 adults in North Texas with at least one school age child.

“North Texans are no different from others in terms of increasingly using tablets and phones to research options and deals online, but in-store spending still prevails,” Vroonland said.

Shopping is plentiful and easy in North Texas, he said, which has more retail per person (27 square-feet) versus the U.S. average of 24 square feet. “The Dallas market is more spread out and that sprawl includes more access and convenience to shopping than in a more concentrated market.”

More than half of Dallas area parents (55 percent) said they planned to begin shopping in July, which is earlier than the U.S. average of 42 percent. That’s partly due to schools starting earlier in Texas, said Vroonland. The first day in Prosper is Aug. 14. Allen, Coppell, Plano and Richardson start on Aug. 21. Dallas public schools start on Aug. 28.

Valarie Alaniz (left) organizes school supplies at Walmart at Timber Creek Crossing in Dallas on July 18, 2017. (Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News)

The Texas sales tax holiday, he said, which this year is Aug. 11-13, also has an impact.

“The sales tax holiday remains popular with Texans and contributes to higher spending here than in other parts of the country,” he said. It’s easy to justify another top or pair of jeans when families save $40 on purchases of $500.

Confidence is also playing a role, he said. About 40 percent of DFW parents said they are more confident about the U.S. economy than they were in 2016. About 33 percent of U.S. parents surveyed were as optimistic.

In the 2006-07 school year, 4,594,942 students were enrolled in Texas public schools. By 2016-17, enrollment had risen to 5,359,127 students. Over the 10-year period, total enrollment increased by 764,185 students, or by 16.6 percent. Credit: Texas Education Agency. (Texas Education Agency /Texas Education Agency)

Another regional trend that popped out in the survey has to do with the basic tools of the classroom that property taxes and other school funding just don’t cover.

Dallas area parents plan to spend $83 on average for school supplies, but 41 percent of them plan to buy a mandatory list of items such as construction paper, glue, crayons, folders and notebooks from schools and PTAs rather than going to pick them out in stores.

That compares with $104 and 30 percent, nationally.

“It’s one less thing to do. We have two elementary age children, and we’ve done it every year,” Vroonland said. The school supplies just appear in the classroom. Parents avoid a long line and begging for things not on the list like cool gel pens, extra glue to make one more batch of slime and a superhero backpack.

“It’s a convenience that’s high on the value spectrum,” he said.

The Deloitte survey was taken May 31 through June 17.

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