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Back-to-school spending hits £1.2bn: how to cut your bill

Joanna Faith
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Joanna Faith

Back to school spending has shot up with parents now shelling out almost £1.2bn a year, a study reveals.

Analysis by market research firm Mintel shows parents spent £1.16bn in 2018 ahead of the new school year, up from £885m in 2017 – a 36 per cent increase.

This makes back-to-school spending the third biggest retail event after Christmas and Black Friday, Mintel said.

Parents spent an average of £134 on school uniforms and shoes in 2018, a 6 per increase compared to the previous year.

Collectively, Brits spent a total of £510m on school uniforms in 2018, up from £395m in 2017.

The biggest increase in spending was on computing equipment with Brits spending a total of £130m on these products in 2018, compared to £80m the previous year.

Spending on stationery saw the second-highest increase, with notebooks, pens and pencil cases leaving parents £100m worse off in 2018, compared to £65m the previous year.

Over two-fifths (42 per cent) of parents said they feel pressure to buy their children branded back-to-school products and nearly half (49 per cent) say there is more pressure now than previously to buy fashionable back-to-school items.

Samantha Dover, senior retail analyst at Mintel, said: “There has always been an appetite for branded products when buying things like trainers, bags and coats, which often aren’t part of the traditional uniform. However, this pressure is moving into new categories like computing equipment and stationery as parents are keen to ensure their children are keeping up with their peers.”

Back-to-school shoppers acknowledge that value for money has improved, with nearly two-thirds saying there are now better options for some of the lower-cost back-to-school products than there were previously.

Despite this improvement, over half (53 per cent) of parents still find the back-to-school shopping period stressful.

Top tips to cut your back-to-school bill

  • Head to the supermarket for uniforms. They often undercut specialist shops. But check your school’s uniform policy as some are very strict and insist uniforms have their logo.
  • Swap uniforms with other parents. Try your local parent group on Facebook to see if anybody is getting rid of anything you need.
  • Check if your local council can help. Some offer grants towards the cost of uniform.