August 23, 2010, 3:30 PM

Consumers are doing their school shopping earlier this year

And more of those consumers are shopping online.

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Consumers are getting more of their back-to-school and college shopping done earlier this year, according to a new National Retail Federation survey sponsored by BIGresearch.

The survey found that the average family has completed 43.2% of its school shopping, up from 41.6% a year ago. Similarly, families of college students have completed 43.1% of their shopping, up from 41.0% the previous year.

The trade group based its results on surveys of 8,201 consumers conducted between Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.

Although the average family is nearly halfway done with its school shopping, a sizable number of families, 26.8%, have yet to start their shopping. Likewise, 35.1% of families with college-aged students haven’t started their shopping.

 “As the summer winds down, budget-wise families will scope out weekly circulars, sale racks and even comparison shop online to find the best back-to-school deals,” says Pam Goodfellow, senior analyst at BIGresearch.

The survey found that one way consumers are looking to cut costs is by shopping online. 16% of families polled say they will finish their school shopping online this year, up from 12.2% last year. The survey found the same effect for families with college students, with 29.6% saying they will finish their school shopping online this year, up from 24.1% last year.

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