Besides traditional back-to-school purchases, a growing number of students—particularly those in high school and college—look for items that are plugged in and turned on. The National Retail Federation estimates college students and their parents spent $34 billion during the 2005 back-to-school season—more than double the amount spent on kindergarten through 12th-grade back-to-school supplies. Almost a fourth of the collegiate spending went for electronics.
What kind of electronics? For college students, think small. “Because the typical dorm (room) is still no larger than a walk-in closet, smaller, sleeker technology is a must,” says Stephen Saint-Onge, a designer for Philips Electronics. He suggests trading in bulky computer monitors for space-saving flat-panel monitors, or investing in a laptop computer such as an HP Pavilion notebook (cost: from $570 to $1,000), which provides mobility and takes up less room.
Co-eds also might consider purchasing a pair of high-quality headphones or small ear buds, the latest in “conflict prevention” for roommates. If there’s money left in the budget, digital photo display systems such as the Philips Digital Photo Display ($199) and web-cams can keep students connected to family and friends back home.
The days of the shared dormitory telephone have gone the way of 8-track tapes. According to a recent survey by the research company Student Monitor, 95 percent of students living on campus have a cellular phone, making them nearly as common as textbooks and highlighters.
Younger students have their own back-to-school needs, which encompass everything from a box of Crayola crayons to Texas Instruments graphing calculators (around $150), and the latest handheld organizers ($29 to $399). For example: