'Back to school' spending rises by 10% in 2018 to £1.63 billion

22 August 2018

  • Total spend up from £1.48bn in 2017 with per child spend increasing by around £15
  • Londoners set to spend the most per child with Yorkshire parents spending the least
  • Increasingly more parents worrying about the cost of kitting out their kids – up by 13%
  • More than one in ten turn to Bank of Grandparents for funding and a quarter use a credit card

While the UK's 8.63 million1 school children enjoy the last of the summer holidays, parents have already started to turn their attention to the new school year because of the feared costs of kitting out the kids.

According to the annual Nationwide Credit Card 'Back to School' survey2, they are planning to spend around £1.63 billion (£189.29 per child) to ensure their children have all the necessary kit for the start of the new school year.

That represents a 10 per cent increase (£1.48bn) on the amount parents planned to spend in 2017 – equating to a £15 increase per child, and a four per cent increase on 2016 (£1.56bn).

Like last year, school uniform and shoes account for the biggest proportion – around a third (34%) of total expenditure. In preparation for the forthcoming school year, parents surveyed said they are likely to spend an average of £36.70 on uniform and £28.35 on shoes per child – small increases on the previous year (12% and 4% respectively). Jackets and coats will also likely see a small increase (12%) in spending this year, with an average of £25.26 set aside per child. However, more than a third (36%) of parents admitted that school uniform spend will exceed £51 per child with around one in ten (9%) set to spend a similar amount on shoes and more than one in ten (12%) on jackets and coats.

Parental worries on the rise:
The Nationwide poll, which surveyed 2,000 UK parents with children aged between four and 16, also highlights an increasing concern amongst parents with nearly three quarters (72%) admitting that they are worried about how much it is costing to kit their children out ready for the new school year – a 13 per cent increase on 2017 (59%).

Mums are more likely to worry about the back to school outlay that dads, with more than three quarters (77%) admitting their concerns compared to less than two thirds (62%) of dads. Across the parental age groups, parents aged 25-34 worry most (76%) compared to two thirds (66%) of those aged 45-54 and over 55. Regionally, Northern Irish parents (83%) tend to be most concerned about the cost of kitting out their kids for the start of the new school year, according to the poll, with Scots (63%) and Londoners (63%) least concerned.

School holidays or back to school:
Parents are also more likely to be concerned about the cost of kitting our their children ready for the new school year (45%) than they are about how much the school summer holiday period is going to set them back financially (38%).

Almost half of mums polled (48%) said the cost of the 'back to school' period worries them more than the cost of school holidays. Regionally, Northern Irish parents are more concerned how much the 'back to school' period is costing (66%), whereas North East parents worry more about the cost of the school summer holidays (43%). More than one in five (21%) of Londoners worry about neither.

Average amount spent per item per child:
Regionally, London parents spend the most at £227.06 per child, followed by Northern Ireland (£208) and Wales (£196.33). Yorkshire parents likely to spend the least (£173.49 per child) along with parents in the South West (£178.35).

As is the case nationally, total expenditure has increased across most parental age groups. The following tables provide a breakdown of the specific items purchased and how much the average British parent is likely to spend this year versus how much they planned to spend in 2017:

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UK average

16-24 average

25-34 average

35-44 average



School uniform (clothes)







School shoes







Jackets and coats







Sports shoes (e.g. plimsolls)







Sports kit







Sports equipment







School bags





















Lunch boxes






















UK average

18-24 average

25-34 average

35-44 average



School uniform (clothes)







School shoes







Jackets and coats







Sports shoes (e.g. plimsolls)







Sports kit







Sports equipment







School bags





















Lunch boxes





















Where is the money coming from?

According to Nationwide's annual survey, a quarter (24%) of parents are turning to their credit card to fund the necessary purchases, while more than a third (36%) admit to dipping into their savings. More than one in ten (11%) of parents feel they will need to turn to the grandparents to support them financially with these costs.

Interestingly, older parents are most likely to use a credit card with nearly a third (29%) of those aged 55 and over using this method compared to just 9 per cent of parents aged 16 to 24 and 20 per cent of those aged 25 to 34.

Parents in East Midlands (32%) and London (31%) are most likely to use a credit card compared to just 9 per cent of parents in Northern Ireland and Wales and 16 per cent in Scotland. While Londoners are the most likely to use a credit card, they are also the most likely to need to dip into their savings (45%).

Location, location, location – where and when do parents make their purchases?
Specific shops requested by the school remain the most popular places to buy all the necessary clothes and other school items. However, where they can, parents are turning to supermarkets and department stores in an effort to keep costs down.

Shops designated by the child's school are where British parents are buying jumpers and sweatshirts (45%), ties (31%), blazers (29%) and sports kit (32%). Supermarkets are popular for shirts, blouses and polo-shirts (45%) and skirts and trousers (45%) while department stores are used to buy shoes (44%) and coats and jackets (33%).

Louise Prior, Head of Nationwide Unsecured Lending, said: "When it comes to getting our kids ready for the new school year, our latest 'Back to School' research highlights parents are likely to need more money to cover the costs this year than last year.

"Although £190 per child may be an amount parents can find, if you have more than one child in school, it can very quickly mount up, especially added onto the costs associated with the school holidays. And unfortunately, parents are often prevented from shopping for a bargain due to being forced to purchase some school items – such as uniform – from appointed suppliers.

"As a result, squeezed family budgets are forcing more and more parents to either dip into their savings or turn to credit cards to cover the cost.

"That is why it's important to plan ahead for these known annual costs by snapping up deals as they come along, building up a pot of savings throughout the year or, given a quarter of parents are using credit cards, ensuring your credit card offers you a good value borrowing option and that you have a plan in mind for repaying."

Notes to Editors:

1https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/education-and-training-statistics-for-the-uk-2017 (Main Tables: SR64/2017, tab 1.2)

2Research conducted online by Censuswide of 2,004 UK parents of children aged between 4 and 16 who will attend school in September 2018. Research conducted between 27 July and 31 July 2018.

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