EARLY YEARS: Families expected to spend an average of $890 on back-to-school items

No Virginia Sales Tax Holiday this year, but many stores still offering deep discounts
No Virginia Sales Tax Holiday this year means families will be digging deeper into their wallets for school supplies
Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 5:53 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Eight-year-old Colton Kefauver loves to go shopping. From school supplies to clothes, Colton’s mom, Laura Kefauver, says she sticks to her list.

“I have to go with what’s on the list. And teachers are being very specific about brands now. Like, we had to have the Crayola brand. We had to have that certain name-that-I-can’t-even-pronounce-pencil,” says Kefauver.

She says the absence of Virginia’s sales tax holiday doesn’t really impact her shopping habits.

“I’ll be very honest, most of the time I don’t shop on that weekend just because it’s so crazy with the crowds. They tend to run out things and I just avoid it,” says Kefauver.

Along with most things, prices are up for Back to School season. And according to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending is expected to reach a record $41.5 billion this year. That’s $4.7 billion more than last year.

Average families are expected to spend $890 on back-to-school shopping. For college, that number jumps to $1,367.

“The biggest reason we’re seeing such growth in back-to-school spending is that there’s higher demand for big ticket items like electronics,” says Katherine Cullen, National Retail Federation Vice President of Industry and Consumer Insights. “This year there’s about 69% of back-to-school shoppers say that they need to buy electronics,” she says.

But bargain hunters can take advantage of shopping apps, in-store and online coupons. The early bird often gets the discounts.

“As of early July, over half, 55%, of back-to-school and college shoppers had already started shopping for the season,” says Cullen.

Cullen says inflation is top of mind these days, sending more shoppers to discount stores.

Wherever you shop, back to school season is an important part of the retail calendar.

As for Colton, he has everything he needs for the third grade-- especially his favorite subject, science.

And while there isn’t a state sales tax holiday, there are lots of good Back-to-School sales.

Consignment shops Plato’s Closet and Once Upon a Child are doing their own sales tax-free week.

School supply drives are happening, as well, to help families in need.