5 back-to-school trends to watch

Flashy sneak­ers and sup­plies in ‘mil­len­nial pink’ among pop­u­lar items for stu­dents.

Los Angeles Times - - PERSONAL FINANCE - By Abha Bhat­tarai Bhat­tarai writes for the Wash­ing­ton Post.

The start of school is still weeks away, but many Amer­i­cans have al­ready be­gun their back-to-school shopping, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion. And this year, their shopping lists are longer — and glitzier — than in years past.

“Fam­i­lies are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more con­fi­dent about the econ­omy,” said Matthew Shay, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive. “With stronger em­ploy­ment lev­els and a con­tin­ued in­crease in wages, con­sumers are spend­ing more and we are op­ti­mistic that they will con­tinue to do so.”

Fam­i­lies with school-age chil­dren are pro­jected to spend an av­er­age of $688 a child, while the to­tal for col­lege stu­dents is much higher. The av­er­age col­lege stu­dent plans to spend $1,051 this year, and in ad­di­tion par­ents say they will spend an av­er­age of $1,347 on sup­plies for col­lege, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by Deloitte.

Over­all back-to-school spend­ing is ex­pected to rise 10% to $83.6 bil­lion, the NRF says.

Where will all that money go? Nearly half of shop­pers say they’re plan­ning to buy a lap­top, while roughly onethird will be spring­ing for a tablet. But that’s not all: Shoes and school sup­plies are ex­pected to see the high­est in­creases in spend­ing as Amer­i­cans look for light-up sneak­ers, glit­tery note­books and emoji-en­crusted pen­cil bags.

Here, re­tail­ers and an­a­lysts weigh in on the big­gest trends this sea­son.

1. Tech-y cloth­ing

Cargo shorts, jeans, hood­ies, even school uni­forms are be­ing re­con­fig­ured to ac­com­mo­date cell­phones and tablets. Mean­while, re­tail­ers such as Vera Bradley, L.L. Bean and Her­schel Sup­ply have in­tro­duced lap­top-friendly back­packs with cord com­part­ments and head­phone ports. “This is re­ally about func­tion seep­ing into fash­ion,” shopping an­a­lyst Trae Bodge said. “Younger and younger kids are tak­ing cell­phones and lap­tops to school.”

2. ‘Mil­len­nial pink’

The year’s it-color, Bodge says, is “an ironic pink.” The muted sal­mon shade is crop­ping up ev­ery­where — on cloth­ing, couches and ceil­ings — and now re­tail­ers say it’s tak­ing over school sup­plies. “It’s def­i­nitely the year’s big trend,” says Pet­ter Knu­trud, head of mer­chan­dis­ing for Of­fice Depot. “Note­books, pen­cils, fold­ers, erasers. We’re see­ing it across mul­ti­ple de­part­ments and de­signs.” And, adds Bodge, she also ex­pects it to be a pop­u­lar shade for girls’ cloth­ing and hair dye in the com­ing year. “The big thing about ‘mil­len­nial pink’ is that it isn’t too girly,” she said. “This isn’t the clas­sic bub­ble-gum pink that a lot of girls have turned their backs on.”

3. Video-game­friendly lap­tops

Stu­dents are in­creas­ingly “study­ing by day, gam­ing by night” — and want a lap­top that can do both, said Knu­trud. This year, the chain is stock­ing its stores with lightweight lap­tops that can be lugged from class to class, and then used for high-per­for­mance video games in the evenings. “It used to be that you needed a mam­moth, clunky lap­top for gam­ing,” Knu­trud said. “Now you can do it all in one day­time-ac­cept­able de­vice.”

4. Flashy sneak­ers

This year’s sneak­ers are awash in neon col­ors, se­quins, pom poms and flash­ing lights. “Kids have lim­ited ways to ex­press their per­son­al­i­ties,” Bodge said. “That’s where bright and ex­cit­ing sneak­ers come in.” One ex­am­ple: Skech­ers’ Twin­kle Toes line, which in­cludes light-up sneak­ers cov­ered in neon-col­ored cats, glit­ter emo­jis, metal­lic se­quins and iri­des­cent uni­corns. Some also have pom poms, rhine­stones and three-di­men­sional flow­ers. At Wal­mart, ex­ec­u­tives are bank­ing on Flash­lights, a line of high-top sneak­ers with light-up soles, to rack up an ex­pected $25 mil­lion in back-to-school sales. “These are a huge trend we’re bet­ting on this year,” Steve Brat­spies, Wal­mart’s chief mer­chan­dis­ing of­fi­cer, said this sum­mer.

5. Ac­ces­sories … for ev­ery­thing

It’s not just sneak­ers that are get­ting an over-the-top facelift this year. Re­tail­ers say add-ons like pom poms, stick­ers and emoji icons are mak­ing their way onto notepads, pen­cil pouches and more. “How do you take the ev­ery­day stuff you use and make it more ‘you’? That’s the big ques­tion this year,” Knu­trud said. “A notebook can’t just be a plain notebook any­more. It’s got to have lit­tle doo­dads.” To that end, he said, Of­fice Depot has be­gun adding spe­cial dis­plays of ac­ces­sories — key­chains, charms, pen­cil top­pers, donut-shaped erasers — through­out the store. And for the high­schooler look­ing to spruce up a dingy locker, this year’s of­fer­ings in­clude chan­de­liers, light-up mir­rors and shag rugs, all made to fit in a stan­dard locker.

Mark Len­ni­han As­so­ci­ated Press

FAM­I­LIES with school-age chil­dren are pro­jected to spend an av­er­age of $688 a child for back-to-school items, a sur­vey by Deloitte found.

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