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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Back-to-school shopping takes a hit this year



5248469-2501x2502 This isn't a surprise but it sure does indicate that the economy still has a long way to go before it rights itself. According to a National Retail Federation survey, families with kids in grades kindergarten to 12 will spend about 8 percent less this year on back-to-school items than they did last year. In other words, families will do what they have been doing since this recession started: Looking for bargains, using coupons and seeking hand me downs from friends to make it through.

According to the NRF, "The economy is having a major impact on back-to-school spending as four out of five Americans (85 percent) have made some changes to back-to-school plans this year as a result."  The survey showed that not only is the bad economy having an impact on how families spend on back-to-school items, but some families (11.4 percent) say they will cut back on extracurricular activities or sports and another 5.7 percent say that the economy will determine whether they attend public or private school.

“The economy has clearly changed the spending habits of American families, which will likely create a difficult back-to-school season for retailers,” said Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO. “As people focus primarily on price, strong promotions and deep discounts will ultimately win over back-to-school shoppers this year.”

The only bright spot in back-to-school spending is electronics as personal laptops and desktop computers prices continue to drop. That spending is projected to increase about 11 percent.

So what can you do to stem the tide? I always try to shop ahead, looking for bargains at the end of seasons. I buy short-sleeve uniform shirts and shorts a couple sizes bigger during off periods like in the fall and winter. I do the reverse with long-sleeve shirts and pants in the summer. Check stores and Web sites because good deals are out there. I've seen an ad for Staples recently that has penny deals with purchases (that ends Wednesday) and a $5-off coupon on the circular for any purchase of $20 or more in store. I also look for school supplies in places that might not normally be associated with notebook paper or pencils like supermarkets or toy stores. At Toys r Us, I found a deal on Crayola crayons in which you bought one box for the regular price and then got TWO for free. Also at TRU, you can get a free lunch kit when you buy a backpack that costs $12.99 or more.

And here's an idea for when the school year ends: At my sons' school, Mommas organize a uniform sale in which you can buy shirts and shorts, pants and skorts for a lot less than you would pay buying them new. It's a great deal especially since you can buy a couple of new things and add those to the gently used pieces bought at the sale. And if you don't have another kiddo coming up behind your child, it's a good way to make sure the clothes don't go to waste.

We're all in this bad place together, so if you have other ideas to help Mommas, please share tham.

-- Sherry Robinson

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:02am]


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