In the Press
As they prepare their offspring for a new school year, many parents are trying to balance the cost of school clothing, accessories and electronics with their budgets.
The National Retail Federation's 2010 survey of back-to-school spending that found that 44.3 percent of Americans will buy more store brand or generic products, compared to 41.7 percent last year. Plus, more parents will comparative shop online and seven in 10 will head to a discount store.
There remains "no question" that the economy will continue to play a role in American families' back to school preparations, the Federation says.
Grant Monahan, president of the Indianapolis-based Indiana Retail Council, said although the economy still is struggling and unemployment is a challenge, retail sales for the back-to-school period should climb compared to 2009.
|Anna Farmer, left, checks out shirts with her son Ryan, 7, while her daughter Hayley, 12, shops at Once Upon a Child in Schererville.||
"This year people face greater challenges of fitting back to school in their family budget, but at the same time there are things kids need and that are required by their teachers," Monahan said. "There are needs that need to be met."
The Grabowskis, of Munster, have six offspring from four to 23 years old; four are in school.
"We're buying what we see in the newspaper ads," Elizabeth Grabowski said. "We're looking for a good price."
Grabowski returned to the work force this summer to help with the family's expenses.
"They (her children) have lists from school so we have to buy whatever they need," she said. "But I buy what's reasonable. I watch what's on sale."
The back-to-school season is important to retailers' annual revenue forecast – especially those selling clothing and electronics – because it is second only to the Christmas holidays in terms of sales. Much of the growth is the result of the growth in product range.
"It's not just rulers and pencils any more," Monahan said. "It's calculators, laptops, furnishing for dormitory rooms. It runs the gambit of merchandise."
The merchandise mix has expanded so much that almost any type of store offers some of the necessities for back to school, he said. Electronics stores are selling laptops, calculators and software as well as electronics for strictly entertainment. Furniture and houseware stores are outfitting dorm rooms, and department stores do well in clothing.
"The big box stores really catered to the entire back-to-school experience and will do well," Monahan said.
Tara Schlosser, spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Target, said the "back to school, back to college" sales period is one of the discount chain's busiest times.
"We gear up in July to make sure we have everything our customers need," she said. "As usual, we're making it our goal to have every need available to students and we are aware our customers are spending conservatively and we are providing products that serve those needs."
A Best Buy spokesman said the company didn't release data on sales, but said the electronics giant is selling scores of back-to-school items.
Many families are cutting those costs by visiting resale shops.
"We're definitely getting a lot of new customers and traffic's up," said Amy Billingsly, stock specialist at the Schererville children's clothing resale shop, Once Upon a Child.
Kim Crnarich, the shop's owner, said the back-to-school period is the 10-year-old store's busiest time because customers can save money while keeping their children well-clothed.
"We offer a lot of brand name clothing in youth sizes, like Old Navy, Abercrombie, at a fraction of what they would be new," she said. "People are always telling us they're glad we're here. They say. ‘I don't know what I would do without you guys.' "