Driven by higher demand for consumer electronics, retailers are expecting consumers to spend $18.4 billion on back-to-school merchandise this summer, up by 6.9 percent from last year, the National Retail Federation reported this week.

The report, based on a survey of more than 8,000 consumers, anticipates families with school-age children to spend $563.49 each, compared to $527.08 in 2006. About $129.24 on average will go toward buying iPods, cell phones, laptops, and other consumer electronics -- a 13 percent increase from last year and the single biggest growth category, the report said.

Despite those gains, most spending will continue to go into clothing and accessories, representing nearly half of all spending, the report said.

"Electronics have evolved from luxuries to necessities, not only for college students but also for their younger siblings," Tracy Mullin, the group's president and CEO, said in a statement.

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