NEW YORK - Rosio Ramos has already started buying school supplies for her 8-year-old son Sebastian. She, like many parents, had sticker shock this year when it came to buying back-to-school items.
"Things are very expensive," she said. "Everything is so pricey."
The pandemic has caused interruptions in the supply chain. That coupled with families needing more things like new clothes and computers as they adjust back to in-person learning has made things costlier.
The National Retail Federation has been tracking consumer spending for years and has watched it steadily climb. Data shows an average family can spend about $800 buying clothing, computers, backpacks, and other supplies. This year, parents will spend about $60 more than last year, according to Katherine Cullen, NRF's senior director for retail and consumer insights.
"Retailers have been experiencing a number of disruptions through the past year, year and a half as a result of the pandemic," Cullen said.
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Every year the nonprofit Volunteers of America Greater New York hosts a program called Operation Backpack. The organization expects to give 15,000 backpacks to children living in homeless shelters. The pandemic has caused a shortage in some of their donations. Rachel Weinstein said the group doesn't have enough backpacks this year.
"The wonderful anonymous donor who supplied us with beautiful backpacks for the past number of years, thousands of them — his supply chains were completely devastated," Weinstein said. "And so he hasn't been able to give us any backpacks last year or this year."
She said Volunteers of America is trying to find other sources of backpacks.
"So we're beating the bushes," she said.
Since it is uncertain how long supplies that are in stock will last, industry experts suggest shopping early for school supplies instead of waiting until the last minute.