Experts say it's possible some school supplies could be harder to find and may sell out. Plus, prices may be on the rise.
Neil Saunders, managing director of consultancy GlobalData Retail, told USA TODAY he expects demand will be high on products like backpacks, sneakers, some gadgets and stationery.
“While we are unlikely to see apocalyptic shortages, the continued pressure on supply chains means that not all retailers will get an optimal amount of supply,” Saunders said. "What this means is consumers will have less choice, and some may not be able to get exactly what they want, especially towards the end of the back-to-school season."
►Back-to-school season: 15 must-have school supplies your kids need, by grade
Last year as more students started the school year virtually amid the pandemic, parents struggled to find desks and chairs.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, consumers plan to spend record amounts for both school and college supplies with more students planning to return to in-person classrooms this fall.
Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school items, which is $59 more than last year. Total back-to-school spending is expected to reach a record $37.1 billion, up from $33.9 billion last year, the survey of more than 7,700 consumers showed.
USA TODAY found that Target and Walmart stores in Florida and California had well-stocked school supply sections.
Will school supplies cost more?
Keith Jelinek, managing director of the retail practice at Berkeley Research Group, urges consumers to start planning their back-to-school shopping sooner rather than later to avoid shortages and possible price increases.
“We are seeing instances where demand is outpacing supply of goods, especially in apparel,” Jelinek told USA TODAY. “Consumers might see the apparel or sneakers item they want but may not be able to get it in the size or color they need.”
With 6% inflation in apparel, he said consumers should anticipate paying anywhere from 10% to 15% more compared to last year. Also, he expects retailers will reduce discounts.
Nikki Baird, vice president of retail innovation at Aptos, a technology solutions provider that works with brands and retailers including Dick's Sporting Goods, Tilly's, Carter's, Skechers and New Balance, agrees that there may be fewer promotions this year.
Baird said stores have also narrowed their assortments to minimize their risk of products not selling.
Early school shopping
More than half of back-to-school shoppers from the the retail federation's survey said they already started shopping for the school year as of early July, but 76% were still waiting on school supply lists.
“I think there's a lot of pressure for consumers to shop sooner than later," Baird said. "There's a lot of concern out there about inflation, and whether prices are going to go up, there's lots of disruption around the supply chain."
Upcoming sales tax holidays are expected to drive shoppers in some states to get a handle on their shopping. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers survey, 38% plan their back-to-school shopping around specific promotional events and dates such as sales-tax holidays and sales.
Saunders said shortages will be patchy and consumers will need to search more than usual to find what they want.
“Consumers seem to be aware of some of these challenges, which is why more are getting their back-to-school shopping out of the way earlier than usual.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shoe, backpack shortages could be possible for back-to-school shopping