When’s the best time for back-to-school shopping? What can parents expect to spend?

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The start of the school year might feel far away, but not if you’re out shopping. Several stores already have shelves stocked with supplies, along with deals.

So we wanted to know: When is the best time to go back-to-school shopping? And how much can parents expect to spend this year?

Soaking up summer in a place simply meant for it, there’s likely one topic these kids would rather not dive into while at the Highland Park Aquatic Center in St. Paul.

“Are you thinking about school at all,” we asked a group of teenagers, which was followed by a quick and resounding, “No.”

Some kids told us they were excited about the start of the school year despite it being mid-July. It’s an answer retailers appreciate, given that stores like Target have already shifted shelves around for the back-to-school shopping season. 

“It seemed early this year. Really early. I feel like it was even a couple weeks ago,” one parent said.

“This is normal,” said Claire Tassin, retail analyst with Morning Consult.

Is it too early to already be thinking about back-to-school shopping?

 “It’s not. Actually, 36 percent of parents, that is of a survey this week, have already gotten their shopping started for back to school,” Tassin said. 



But a majority of families aren’t so eager. Several teenagers and parents told WCCO they don’t think about shopping for school until mid-August.

“Certainly you’ll have a better sense of what’s available, what the deals are that can be had [in August],” Tassin said.

She says promotions pick up closer to Labor Day, but spreading out the shopping into July allows customers to find more deals and avoid paying one big bill in one trip.

How will inflation impact back to school shopping? 

“There’s a lot more stress this year than there has been in previous years,” Tassin said.

In a recent survey by Morning Consult, about 25 percent of parents expect to spend more than $500 on back to school shopping this year. That’s up from just 7 percent last summer. Parents also don’t have the benefit of stimulus checks and the advance Child Tax Credit like a year ago. 

“There’s an expectation that inflation is really gonna hit back-to-school prices. But I want to be clear, that’s not necessarily what you’ll actually see on the sticker,” Tassin said.

She believes most families will spend under $500. Shopping online can also help customers save since it’s easier to compare prices between websites. Some retailers though will do in-store-only promotions.