When Alexandra Alston ’08, a former resident of Colorado, was preparing for the move to Yale, she knew that she would visit a lot of stores before — and after — she arrived in Connecticut.
“We had a list,” said Alston. “But that was just ridiculous. There were millions of things I’d forgotten but [that] I needed or I wanted.”
Freshmen nationwide spent, on average, over $1200 each purchasing supplies for their first year away from home, according to a survey the National Retail Federation conducted this August and reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week . Juniors, who spent $811 on average, were the next-largest consumers of back-to-school supplies.
“Retailers have started to market to college students in the last five years or so,” said Ellen Tolley, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. “College students have always wanted to find fun and trendy items to make them feel at home while they’re at school, and we’re just now seeing products customized for college students.”
Alston said she could have brought some supplies, such as bedding, from home, but she “wanted different stuff.” She said she will keep her new purchases at the end of the year.
“It’s not like I’m going to leave this stuff out on the street,” she said.
Neil LeBeau, General Manager of the on-campus Barnes and Nobles, agreed with Tolley. LaBeau added that the demand for dorm supplies has expanded greatly in the past few years. His store has been expanding its dorm supplies department, he said.
Freshmen at Yale said most of the money they have spent so far this year has been on electronics and dorm supplies, such as furniture.
“A laptop was the obvious one,” Nicholas Buttrick ’08 said. “And then [came] chairs for the common room.”
Retailers along Broadway in New Haven said they have noticed freshmen purchasing items they only now realize they need. Will Starks ’05 and Matt Miltenberg ’05, salesmen at Sound Runner, said the sports equipment store has been making an effort to carry items that students, particularly those at Yale for the first time, will need for Connecticut winters.
“We’re bringing in Cloudvale stuff sooner than we would have,” said Starks, referring to a brand of outerwear the store carries.
When it comes to clothes to go under their jackets, freshmen shopping at J. Crew are “trying to get their wardrobes going,” said Katelyn McBride, a Quinnipiac senior and J. Crew salesperson.
“They’ll purchase anything and everything,” she said.
Juniors, a number of whom may move off campus or into single rooms for the first time, tend to purchase goods they did not need or did not know to bring with them freshman year, the study and several juniors said.
Trying to furnish one’s own place as a junior requires different types of supplies, said Jessica Wittnam ’06.
For freshman year, Wittnam said, she brought just “two bags of clothing.” She was flying in from Montana, was “too naive” to know what kinds of things she would need at college and strapped for luggage space, she said.
Wittnam also said she is now “inclined to buy more” because she holds a job and feels less guilty about buying “frivolous things,” and she is also trying to prepare to apply for jobs.
McBride, at J. Crew, said older students tend to come in while preparing for job interviews, and they purchase mostly dressier clothes.
“You can tell when they’re not messing around anymore,” McBride said.
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