‘Back to school’ spending costs UK parents £1.48 billion

20 August 2017

  • Total spending in 2017 is down on 2016; with technology spend plummeting
  • Londoners spend the most on their children for the new school year
  • Younger parents less likely to worry about the costs of kitting out their kids
  • More than one in ten parents will turn to Bank of Grandparents to finance spending

With the start of the new school year fast approaching, an annual survey shows how parents will be spending £1.48 billion getting the UK’s 8.5 million1 children ready for the start of term – equating to £174.31 per child to purchase items such as jumpers, blazers, ties, shoes and sports kit.

The Nationwide Current Accounts ‘Back to School’ poll 2shows that there has been a drop of around five per cent in total spend compared to 2016 (£1.56bn, a per child drop of £12). It is no surprise that school uniform and shoes once again make up the bulk of expenditure with 34 per cent of total spent on school kit going on those items – a three per cent rise on last year. More than half (54%) of parents admit they will spend £31 or more on school uniform, with just over two in five (41%) saying they will spend the same on shoes. 23 per cent of UK parents will spend £31 or more on sports kit, with 29 per cent spending the equivalent amount on coats/jackets.

The Nationwide research also shows that, in 2017, there is likely to be a sharp decline in the amount spent on technology ahead of the start of the new school year, going from £26.12 in 2016, to just £7.97 this year.

Spending per item and by age and region

As is the case nationally, total expenditure has dropped a little across most parental age groups, except for those aged between 18 and 24. According to the survey, parents aged between 45 and 54 will be spending around 13 per cent less (£217.28 to £189.16), while those aged 55 and over will decrease their spending by around 15 per cent (£218.76 to £186.63).

Regionally, Londoners will spend the most on average (£180.13) to kit out their children ready for the school year, followed closely by parents in Scotland (£180.05). Prudent parents in Yorkshire and Humberside will spend the least on average (£157.55), with those in East Anglia (£158.14) and West Midlands (£158.64) only spending slightly more.

The following tables provide a breakdown of the specific items purchased and how much the average British parent intends to spend this year versus how much they planned to spend on the same items in 2016.


2017 UK average 18-24 average 25-34 average 35-44 average 45-54 average 55+average
School uniform (clothes) £32.73 £25.43 £28.30 £33.85 £35.55 £37.08
School shoes £27.25 £21.83 £23.19 £27.92 £30.79 £29.65
Jackets and coats £22.52 £20.62 £20.52 £22.90 £24.20 £23.47
Sports shoes (e.g. plimsolls) £19.96 £16.67 £17.13 £19.41 £23.89 £23.00
Sports kit £16.68 £12.60 £15.12 £16.48 £18.74 £18.59
Sports equipment £8.70 £11.90 £8.94 £8.02 £9.26 £9.53
School bags £13.53 £13.21 £12.60 £13.42 £14.84 £13.78
Stationery £9.94 £12.50 £9.79 £9.63 £10.66 £9.55
Books £7.92 £9.29 £8.46 £7.12 £8.65 £7.75
Lunch boxes £7.11 £11.14 £8.68 £7.25 £5.48 £3.94
Technology £7.97 £11.10 £8.33 £7.81 £7.10 £10.294
TOTAL £174.31 £166.29 £161.06 £173.81 £189.16 £186.63


2016 UK average 18-24 average 25-34 average 35-44 average 45-54 average 55+average
School uniform (clothes) £31.29 £21.43 £25.71 £32.26 £35.75 £34.21
School shoes £25.90 £18.11 £20.71 £26.92 £29.96 £27.98
Jackets and coats £22.17 £17.24 £18.30 £22.05 £26.02 £26.15
Sports shoes (e.g. plimsolls) £19.44 £12.85 £14.80 £19.37 £24.20 £23.30
Sports kit £16.36 £10.46 £13.16 £15.81 £20.20 £20.39
Sports equipment £8.95 £7.11 £8.00 £8.12 £11.00 £11.09
School bags £12.35 £9.70 £11.31 £12.05 £14.00 £13.10
Stationery £9.21 £7.57 £8.22 £9.05 £10.40 £10.42
Books £7.85 £7.85 £6.99 £7.04 £9.43 £10.69
Lunch boxes £6.60 £7.37 £7.49 £6.45 £5.80 £6.57
Technology £26.12 £42.50 £27.45 £20.78 £30.52 £34.86
TOTAL 186.24 £162.19 £162.14 £179.90 £217.28 £218.76

Location, location, location – where and when do parents buy the kit?

Shops designated by the school continue to be the primary location to purchase specific school items. However, some items can be bought in any location and savvy parents are turning to supermarkets and department stores to keep costs down.

Shops designated by the school are where UK parents buy or need to buy jumpers and sweatshirts (57%), ties (38%), sports kit (35%) and the blazer (34%). But, for skirts and trousers (49%), shirt/blouse/polo shirt (47%) and coats/jackets (33%), supermarkets are an attractive option. For shoes, more than two in five (41%) of British parents will look no further than a department store.

Around eight in ten (79%) parents primarily make their purchases during the school summer holidays, but a quarter (25%) look to bag a bargain as they buy items throughout the year, while 14 per cent wait until just before the end of the previous school year.

Worries and finances

The poll highlights nearly six in ten (59%) parents are concerned about costs. Across the regions, parents in East Anglia and the South West are most likely to worry (66%) whereas those in the East Midlands are least likely to worry (45%). Younger parents are also less likely to worry about costs than older parents – only 52% of those aged 25-34 are concerned about costs, compared to 63% of those aged 45 to 54.

Parents are also more likely to be concerned about the cost of kitting children out for the new school term than they are about how much they will spend financing the school summer holiday period (42% v 31%).

When it comes to getting the money together for the purchases, more than a third (37%) dip into their savings, while a quarter (25%) will turn to the credit card. Interestingly, more than one in ten (11%) will pop along to the Bank of Grandparents for financial help – with those in the South West most likely to do so (16%). Londoners are most likely to use credit cards for purchases.

Larry Banda, Nationwide’s Director of Financial Planning, comments: “Families are often under enormous financial pressure throughout the year, and particularly so when the kids are going back to school. As much as your children will get too big for their shoes, you don’t want your bills to outgrow your wallet.

“There are a number of ways parents can cover the costs by planning ahead as much as possible. These include snapping up bargains when we see them, or building a pot of savings. And with the survey showing a quarter of parents use credit cards we would always advocate making sure that you can afford the payments and to research the best deals for you – from balance transfers period and interest free purchase periods, to cashback offers”.


Notes to Editors

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/education-and-training-statistics-for-the-uk-2016 (Tables SR54/2016, tab: 1.2

2 The poll of 2,000 UK parents with children aged between four and 16 who will attend school in September was carried out by online market researchers, OnePoll.com, and took place 24 July and 1 August.

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