5 Stores Back-To-School Shopping Can't Save

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) – Parents and students are still back-to-school shopping. It's just some retailers that are dropping out.

As the burden of school preparation shifts from school districts to families, parents and students alike shift from years-old routines to a hunt for the cheapest items and best values. There's still a lot of back-to-school money on the table, but some of the usual retail suspects aren't sticking around long enough to collect.

The National Retail Federation retail industry group notes that the $26.5 billion consumers are expected to spend on back-to-school items for kindergarteners through high school seniors is down from last year, but that spending per student is up to $669 from $634. Altogether, school and college shoppers are expected to spend roughly $75 billion before the school year starts.

According to an NRF survey, back-to-school shoppers will spend an average $212.35 on electronic items, up 7% percent from $199.05 last year, with total spending expected to reach $8.4 billion. High school students and their families specifically will spend an average $229.88 on electronic items.

As schools cut budgets, spending on school supplies will increase 12%, to an average $101.18 compared with $90.49 last year. Additionally, shoppers will spend an average $231.30 on clothes, up from $230.85, and $124.46 on shoes, up from $114.39 in 2013.

Those increases dictate where and how parents and students shop this year. The survey found 53.8% of back-to-school shoppers will shop a clothing store, up from 51.5% last year and a survey high; 27.5% will shop at electronics stores, up from 25.9% last year and another survey high. Six in 10 (64.4%) will visit discount stores, 59.1% will shop at their favorite department store, 42% will shop at office supply stores, 38.2% will shop online and 20.5% will shop at drugstores.

What they're spending varies widely. Roughly eight in 10 back-to-school shoppers say the economy will dictate just how much they spend and how many new items they buy. More families will buy store brand/generic items for school (34% vs. 32.8% last year), 25.6% will make do with last year’s items, up from 23.7 % last year, and 19.6 % will shop online more often to save money, up from 18.5% last year and the highest percentage the NRF has seen.

So who gets left out of the shuffle? We took a look at the retail landscape and found five chains that are hurting as we head into the new school year:

Office Max/Office Depot
Stores closing: 400 through 2016

It turns out that maybe the local strip malls don't need so many office supply superstores.

But how many is too many, you ask? Well, last year's $1.2 billion “merger of equals” between Office Depot and Office Max made the ensuing Office Depot realize that the one-time competitors had at least 400 redundant stores.

That's right: Where once families had two warehouse-sized options for buying their reams of paper, pens, desks, chairs and the like, they're now going to have one. Those 150 stores closing by the end of this year are just a fraction of the 400 store the newly combined chains will be closing by the end of 2016. This $1.2 billion merger will close more than 20% of the chain's 1,900 stores.

So that's a huge opening for a big-box competitor, right?

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