Back-to-school pricetag: $18.4B

Survey: Consumers are expected to spend an average of $563 on computers, shoes and other stuff, up 6.9% from 2006.

By Parija B. Kavilanz, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Consumer electronics - such as computers, iPods and cellphones - are expected to charge up this year's back-to-school sales to an estimated $18.4 billion, according to an industry report released Tuesday.

According to the National Retail Federation's 2007 Consumer Intentions and Actions Back-to-School survey conducted by BIGresearch, families with school-age children are expected to spend an average of $563.49 on back-to-school merchandise, up 6.9 percent from last year's average of $527.08.

The foundation said a total $17.6 billion was spent on school stuff in 2006.

Many consumers, after factoring in gas prices and a slump in their home equity, said they will head to discount stores and office supply retailers this year. At the bottom of their list of destinations are department stores and specialty stores.

Also, 21.4 percent of parents said they would log on to the Internet to finish back-to-school shopping for their kids, up from 15.2 percent last year.

The report said the electronics category will see the biggest increase in sales this year, with families spending 13 percent more on gadgets, or an average of $129.24, compared to last year's average of $114.38.

"Electronics have evolved from luxuries to necessities, not only for college students but also for their younger siblings," Tracy Mulling, NRF president and CEO, said in the report.

"While some students may be pleading with Mom and Dad for an iPod or a cell phone, parents are also investing in desktop or laptop computers, educational software and printers to support their children's learning," she said.

Footwear should be also see higher-than-average sales increases, with sales expected to rise 10.3 percent over last year.

Elsewhere, families will likely spend an average of $94 on school supplies, up from $86.22 a year ago.

And although the majority of shoppers will buy new clothes for school and college, spending in the apparel category is expected to be flat, with consumers expected to spend an average of $231.80 on those purchases, compared to last year's average of $228.14.

The NRF survey polled 8,290 consumers from July 3 to 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent. Top of page