More than a quarter of families across the U.S. had already begun shopping for supplies for the 2021-2022 school year by mid-June, when classes were barely out of session for the summer, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

That may lead to a shortage of certain supplies by the time September approaches, as the NRF told News 12 New Jersey on Friday.

Already on Amazon, inventory of grade-appropriate "bundles" or "supply packs" containing such things as pencils, markers, scissors, notebooks, and folders is dwindling, as are bulk items like crayons commonly ordered by teachers.

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With another NRF survey suggesting as many as 70% of families will start their back-to-school shopping at least three weeks before classes begin again, those who wait until the last minute may come up short.

And even with most expecting a return to in-person instruction, that could mean a squeeze on electronics and computer-related equipment. NRF data show an increase of more than 10 percentage points in families with children in kindergarten through high school who say they want to buy these items, compared to 2018-2019.

Meanwhile, more than 90% of families are budgeting for general supplies, clothing, and new shoes, categories in which the numbers have not really budged since 2007.

"With nearly two-thirds of back-to-class shoppers expecting classes to take place in person this year, consumers plan to spend record amounts as they stock up on items like apparel, backpacks, lunchboxes and electronics," Katherine Cullen, NRF senior director of consumer and industry insights, said in a statement provided to New Jersey 101.5. "While retailers have been planning for the back-to-class shopping season for many months, some may be experiencing continued supply chain disruptions from the pandemic. Although many stores were able to stock their inventories in advance, others may be seeing delays in certain products."

Buying online and at department stores are the top two destinations for back-to-school shoppers, according to the NRF. Only 27% of families with grade school-age children said they would go specifically to an electronics store, and just 15% of families with kids in college said the same.

As Cullen mentioned, total back-to-school spending for kindergarten through high school is projected to top $37 billion nationwide this year, which would be over $3 billion more than last year and the highest number NRF has ever recorded in its survey, which dates back to 2003.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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