More parents shopping early for back-to-school items

In an effort to minimize the hit to their wallets, a growing number of parents are hitting the stores early to buy supplies for their children.

Alexandra De Castro, 12, and her stepmother Rhonda De Castro shop for clothes at the JC Penny store in the Mall at Wellington Green on Aug. 13, the first day of the back-to-school sales tax break. Alexandra will be a 7th grader at Eagles Landing Middle School. Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

Alexandra De Castro, 12, and her stepmother Rhonda De Castro shop for clothes at the JC Penny store in the Mall at Wellington Green on Aug. 13, the first day of the back-to-school sales tax break. Alexandra will be a 7th grader at Eagles Landing Middle School. Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

A study released last week by the National Retail Federation found 7 out of 10 shoppers plan to begin shopping at least three weeks before the start of classes — that’s an increase of nearly 20 percent from 2015.

The reason: Early bird shopping helps spread out the cost of the supplies over several pay checks.

Retailers are also offering more early bird deals, and many parents say the promotions are simply too good to pass up, according to the federation.

“Early bird shopping is really bolstered by The Great Recession as consumers adopted smarter shopping habits to avoid racking up credit cards and bills and debt,” said Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst with Prosper Insights and Analytics, which completed the survey for the federation.

Florida’s popular sales tax holiday is set for Aug. 5-7. During the three-day weekend, shoppers won’t be charged the state’s 6 percent sale tax on certain school-related items. School starts in Palm Beach County on Aug. 15.

Back-to-school spending is expected to reach $75.8 billion this year, up from $68 billion in 2015, the survey found.

Families of elementary, middle and high school age children plan to spend an average of $673.57 on apparel and accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies, up 6.8 percent from last year’s $630.36, the federation said.

College students and their families plan to spend an average of $888.71. That’s down slightly from $899.18 last year, the federation said.