This fall, kids weaned on PlayStations and laptops, iPods and X-boxes are cleaning out their bedrooms, loading up the SUVs and heading off to college— leaving behind nothing - nothing - but worried parents. The Washington Post reports that incoming college freshmen are toting more stuff to their tiny dorm rooms than ever before. The reason? They have more stuff. And retailers have just caught on to marketing to the fledgings of the empty nesters.
Up until about six years ago, big retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and the Container Store pitched to the K-12 set, but that has changed. The National Retail Federation estimates incoming college freshmen would spend $34.4 billion on college merchandise, up one-third from the year before -- an average of almost $1,200 per student.
"In my day, you brought a couple of suitcases, a typewriter, stereo and maybe a TV," says Jerry Dieringer, assistant vice president for housing at Towson University in Maryland. "There's now this expectation among students that they have to have the same basic equipment their peers have."
Colleges try to deter students from bringing unnecessary stuff by providing or renting things like risers for beds, carpeting and mini fridges. They inform students in advance of who their roommate will be and suggest they divide up the list of essentials. But does this deter the generation that has grown up with more stuff than ever before? Nooo.
"We see both roommates bringing enough for both of them," he says. "They'll each bring a TV and you'd be hard-pressed to find one with less than a 19-inch screen. I've been in rooms with two gaming systems and four controllers hooked up to two TVs, facing away from each other on opposite sides of the room," says Scott Francis, associate director of residence life at George Mason University.