TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Back to school buying is mostly over for families sending kids back to elementary, middle and high school, but there's bigger ticket buying going on right now for families sending children to college.
Stores like WalMart have stocked up with things like computers, furniture, microwaves and refrigerators to help furnish dorms and student apartments. Parents concede they're spending hundreds at a time as they equip their kids.
"When you get right down to it, there's a couple of types of back to school shopping. There's the pencils, markers, binders, type of back to school and then there's your microwave, your refrigerator type of shopping because we're talking about going back to college and just take a look here at how brisk that business can be."
The WalMart near Park and 36th is full of all sorts of college equipment more practical than the UA Fuzz Head wig.
There are the usual tools for school like pencils and pens but prepping a student to leave home and head to college requires tools for living like furniture, and appliances.
Erik Mensendiek is a UA Freshman: "We bought our own towels. Everything we bought pretty much is new for my bathroom but it's pretty similar. I have the same stuff.”
But his mother Barbi says the stuff they’re buying is different in an important way: ”Now we got to buy detergent that isn't Mom's detergent, it's Erik's detergent."
Businesses around UA boom when the parents roll in to help their students settle in.
Jack Wylie is in Tucson dropping off his daughter Laura. He says, “Hotel is always a problem, right? Because everybody's hitting the place at the same time. It's the same way for the parents’ weekend in October. Really hard to find hotel reservations. You have to book way in advance, almost a year in advance."
Back at the stores, students past freshman year are still buyers but less of a bonanza.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked UA Junior Ashley Gilliam: “Are there some things, with experience, you now go, I don't know why I bought that when I was a freshman?"
She says, "Yes. Absolutely. I bought like ten folders, two binders, a whole bunch of stuff my first year I definitely did not need.----yeah.">
For big retailers like Walmart, back to school shopping and back to college shopping is about the biggest boost for business they're going to have until you hit the run-up to Christmas.”
You want to see how big the bucks can get? The National Retail Federation tracks these thinks. The Federation says the average K through 12 family will spend $669 dollars, while a family equipping children for college will spend $916.
Total retail spending for college: $48.4 billion dollars, compared to $26.5 billion for K-12.