The Snellville, Georgia destination had very limited school supplies available in the area the night before the start of the new school year.

Parents, take note. Preparing your kids for the new school year is likely to cost more this year. And it can be harder to get all of the items on the school supplies list.

While many started remotely in the final year of school, more and more students are moving to physical classrooms – meaning they will need backpacks, lunch boxes, and new clothes.

School supplies spending is expected to hit new records, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. Families with elementary school through high school children plan to spend an average of $ 848.90 on school supplies, which is $ 59 more than last year and $ 152 more than in 2019.

“Back to school shopping is always a scramble, and this is the school year that prepares students and their families for anything and everything,” Kristin McGrath, purchasing expert and editor of deal website RetailMeNot, told USA TODAY.

►Back to school in 2021: So we shop for the new school year

►Tested recommendations: Where can you get popular again to buy school supplies before they sell out?

And this year there is more of a time shortage with impending supply bottlenecks for schools, which are partly due to supply chain problems and the ongoing shortage of chips.

Here are eight things you should know about going back to school and how to best prepare yourself.

Buy early to avoid potential school supply shortages

When more students started the school year virtually last year, desks, chairs, and laptops were the hard-to-find items.

Some school supplies could be harder to find and sold out this year – and not just on the eve of the first day of school. Backpacks, shoes and some gadgets are expected to be this year’s shortage items, experts say.

Research firm Profitero surveyed 500 consumers this week and found that 61% of those who started shopping early in school had problems with out of stock or unavailable items.

Naveen Jaggi, president of retail advisory services at brokerage firm JLL, told USA TODAY that despite the challenges with inventory, he expects a strong back-to-school season.

The story goes on

“There is a real reason to believe that demand will exceed full supply of all core products in the next four to six weeks,” he said.

Beware of increasing costs for school supplies, fewer discounts

More than half of the school beginners in the retail association’s survey of 7,700 consumers said they had already started shopping for the school year at the beginning of July. RetailMeNot predicts that 26% of people plan to start back to school shopping in August.

Aside from the risk of items being sold out, experts believe parents should also shop early to avoid the possibility of rising costs.

Not all parents have this option yet. Profitero found in its survey that half of consumers polled said their school districts were not put back on delivery lists.

“All signals indicate that price inflation and scarcity will only increase the deeper we get into the back-to-school season,” said Mike Black, Profitero’s chief marketing officer. “Especially in terms of pricing as there is no incentive for retailers to lower prices. So the longer people wait to buy, the more likely they are to be annoyed with the results. “

Natalie Kotlyar, national practice manager for retail and consumer goods at BDO, a financial services company, said that given the high demand and potential for shortages, consumers will be more willing to pay full price.

“The message to consumers is: buy early and take advantage of all the discounts you can find as there won’t be many,” said Kotlyar. “Postponement this year will cost you.”

Total back to school spending is expected to hit a record $ 37.1 billion, up from $ 33.9 billion last year, the retail association said.

Sales tax holidays are the best time to save clothes and supplies

Sales tax exemptions are expected to encourage shoppers in some states to get a grip on their purchases.

According to the survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, 38% plan their back-to-school purchases around certain promotional events and dates such as VAT holidays and sales.

Eleven states are having sales tax breaks this weekend, with two states – Connecticut and Massachusetts – offering tax breaks later in August. Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia already had tax exemptions.

Most states that have tax-free vacations offer tax-free shopping in August.

Most states that have tax-free vacations offer tax-free shopping in August.

Florida began its 10-day tax vacation on July 31, and tax-free shopping begins on Friday in Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. The Arkansas tax-free holiday begins on Saturday and the Maryland tax-free week begins on Sunday.

Not every city and county will take part in the sales tax break, nor will every item be tax-free. The criteria vary by state, and local taxes continue to apply in some areas.

Shopping tip: Tax-free shopping is not only possible in stores, but also online.

►TikTok school hacks: These back-to-school TikTok hacks will help with lunch, dorm organization, and more

►Free university: Target Joins Walmart to Pay College For Employees; free books also included

Online shopping will continue to be popular for school shopping

RetailMeNot found in its survey that 52% of respondents said they’ll be back to school this year, while the rest plan to shop online, although this could shift with concerns about the Delta option.

Jaggi, whose company is the largest outside retail property manager in the country, said consumers were back in stores this spring. He said that pedestrian traffic in stores nationwide is about 7 to 8% below pre-pandemic levels and in some parts of the country is “essentially back” before the pandemic.

“They realized that physical shopping is part of the shopping experience, not buying.”

He believes that roadside pickup, which became increasingly popular during the pandemic, will continue to be an attractive option for parents.

Shopping list: computer or clothes?

Despite so many families buying new computers in the past year, technology purchases are expected to be strong again in 2021.

Back to school shoppers plan to spend more in each category, according to the Retail Association survey, but electronics and clothing saw the largest increase this year compared to 2020, with an average of $ 21 more for electronics from $ 19 more for clothing.

“When it comes to going back to school, parents are likely struggling with a larger than average shopping list of catch-up purchases,” RetailMeNot’s McGrath told USA TODAY. “Any families who leave pajamas, socks, and random office supplies to Slide during distance learning are likely to need to buy stylish clothes that fit, shoes, new notebooks, new folders, and backpacks.”

Pitney Bowes noted that electronics are just as popular as school supplies, and Gen Z or Millennial parents will spend 10% more on electronics than in 2019. The tech company said it asked parents about their spending plans compared to 2019 when face-to-face learning is in The standard was considered.

However, the ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips is expected to lead to delays in electronics procurement.

“Check the estimated shipping date before clicking“ Buy ”. It is possible that you will have to settle for an older laptop during the semester while you wait for the new laptop to arrive, ”said McGrath.

► Saving money is difficult: How Ibotta makes it easier to get discounts and make money on groceries, travel, and more

►Mask guidelines: Walmart, Target, Lowe, Kohl, Publix update mask guidelines for employees; encourage customers to wear masks

Changing rooms are allowed to be open this year

If you go to the store with your kids, they can try on clothes in more stores than last year.

Last summer, many large retailers, including Target, Walmart and Kohl’s, had locker rooms closed amid the pandemic.

Target reopened all of its locker rooms through June 1, and Kohl’s reopened its rooms in May. Walmart also said in June that all of its locker rooms were open.

Returns are also accepted in stores across the country, so keep in mind that Kohl accepts most Amazon returns.

Masks, hand sanitizers also make the school supplies list

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires students, staff, and teachers to wear masks in schools to protect children who are ineligible for vaccines, although many schools, especially in southern and Republican-run states, do not have a mask have requirements as thousands of unvaccinated children return to classrooms.

According to a recent survey by OnePoll for Contigo, the water bottle brand, 44% of parents have a longer back to school list than in previous years due to the pandemic. Hand sanitizer and masks for the top lists with 67% tied.

►No school mask rules in Florida: Governor DeSantis says he will “stand in the way” of President Biden on COVID-19 restrictions.

Free school supplies from Ibotta

Ibotta, a popular cashback app and rewards platform, is offering free school supplies to millions of students while supplies last or through August 31st. (Learn more about Ibotta and its uses here.)

Back to School Free for All items include a five-star, three-topic notebook, 12-pack Ticonderoga pencils, a box of Kleenex tissues, and the ingredients for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The discount items, which have a combined value of up to US $ 20, can be purchased in-store and online at Walmart and online at Target, Instacart, HEB or Shipt.

However, depending on where you shop, the items may not be 100% free after the discounts and can cost pennies each. Ibotta bases the discount on the manufacturer’s recommended retail price, which can vary.

►What is on your school supplies list? 15 Essential School Supplies Your Kids Need By Class

► Save better, spend better: Money tips and advice delivered to your inbox. Login here

Featuring: Erin Richards and Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko. Visit our Shopping Ninjas Facebook group for shopping news, tips and deals.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Back to School Shopping Is Different Amid COVID with Delivery Bottlenecks