Preparing for the “Back to School” and “Off to College” Season: Insights from Last Year and Predictions for 2023

preparing for back to school 2023

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2022 study1, over half (56%) of consumers began their back-to-school shopping as early as July, with a significant 81% planning to take advantage of sales in the week of July 11. These numbers give us an insight into the shopping behavior we can expect this year.

Amazon’s data provides a closer look at the most sought-after items last year. Top keywords for the back-to-school category included everyday essentials such as school supplies, backpacks for school, lunch boxes, and colored pencils (see below).

Similarly, for the off-to-college season, keywords like college dorm room essentials, college supplies, portable speakers, laptops, and headphones dominated (see below).

Navigating the Current Economic Climate

The shopping behavior for 2023 is likely to be influenced heavily by last year’s spending trends and the ongoing economic situation. Amid rising inflation, families have found themselves prioritizing their spending, with 38% of consumers cutting back in other areas to cover the cost of items for the new school year.

Predicted Spending for the 2023 “Back to School” Season

Predicted Spending for the 2023 "Back to School" Season

Back-to-school spending in 2022 matched the record high of $37 billion set the previous year. The average expenditure on school items for families with children in elementary through high school was approximately $864, an increase of $15 from 2021.

If we extrapolate from these trends, it’s reasonable to expect similar figures this year.

Forecast for the 2023 “Off to College” Season

Forecast for the 2023 Off to College Season

Back-to-college spending, on the other hand, is expected to increase, following the trend from last year. In 2022, spending reached nearly $74 billion, up from the previous year’s $71 billion.

The average spending per student on college or university items remained consistent at around $1,200. Based on this pattern, we can anticipate a further increase in 2023.

Popular Shopping Destinations

The top five back-to-school shopping destinations in 2022 were online platforms (50%), department stores (45%), discount retailers (40%), clothing stores (37%), and electronics stores (28%).

For the off-to-college season, consumers preferred online (43%), department stores (36%), discount stores (29%), office supply stores (27%), and college bookstores (26%). These rankings are expected to remain consistent this year.


In conclusion, the back-to-school and off-to-college seasons present significant opportunities for both online and brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s crucial to start preparing for the rush early, focusing on providing a wide range of essentials and capitalizing on sale events.

Additionally, taking into account the ongoing economic situation, value for money and affordability will be key considerations for families this year.

Popular “Back to School” Products 2023

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Popular “Off to College” Products 2023

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1National Retail Federation