Coronavirus expected to boost back-to-school spending to record levels

MENASHA — The coronavirus is impacting the back-to-school season in a way that’s never been felt before, and whether students return to the school year by being in school, at home or a combination of both, uncertain families are planning to spend a record amount on back to school as they prepare for the possibility of e-learning, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey.

Parents with children in elementary through high school say they plan to spend an average of $789 per family, topping the previous record of $697 they said they would spend last year, according to the NRF. Total spending for kindergarten through 12th grade and college combined is projected to reach $101.6 billion — exceeding last year’s $80.7 billion and topping the $100 billion mark for the first time.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers say the coronavirus will affect their back-to-class shopping in some form, with 30 percent saying they will do more comparison shopping.

Families can stretch their dollar by shopping thrift. By doing so, families also are helping their community. The average purchase supports more than one and a half hours of job training and opportunities.

Here are our budget-friendly tips on shopping thrift for back to school:

  • Donated items with the color tag of the week are 50% off the ticketed price. Shop clearance racks for extra savings.
  • Look for donated merchandise that has the original price tag and pay secondhand prices for clothing that never has been worn.
  • Go often. Frequency and quick decision-making can pay off. Goodwill and other thrift stores are in the business of donations, and what is donated is one of a kind. That means if you see something you like, buy it. You might never see anything like it again. Plus, if you go often you’ll have a better chance of scoring some of those amazing finds.
  • Jeans are a back-to-school staple, and children’s jeans at Goodwill start at $4.99. Adult jeans start at $6.99.
  • Don’t forget to go beyond apparel. Check the racks for belts, purses, backpacks, dorm-room totes, shoes, desk décor, blankets and more.

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a nonprofit human services organization whose mission is Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, human services programs, unique shopping experiences at its boutiques and Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit

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