The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 8, 2013

Retailers look to tempt back-to-school shoppers

At this time of year, Ken Wrisley, who owns a 1,200-square-foot store in downtown Oakland, N.J., has the same mission as the chief executive officers of major retailers:

Wrisley has to bring his “A” game to the crucial back-to-school shopping season.

“It’s our Christmas,” said Wrisley, owner of Gibling’s Footwear, which specializes in fitting and selling children’s shoes. The two weeks at the end of August and the first two weeks of September are his busiest time of the year.

Retailers big and small are expected to work hard this year for consumer dollars, as parents continue to be careful about spending. Americans will spend $72.5 billion this month and in September to outfit their children for elementary school, high school and college, according to projections by the National Retail Federation, which every year surveys parents about their spending intentions.

Heading into this year’s back-to-school selling season, parents told the retail group that they plan to spend an average of $634.78 on clothing and supplies for school-age children under age 17, or 7.8 percent less than last year.

Last August was a particularly good month for back-to-school retailers, as pent-up demand left over from cautious spending habits following the recession pushed school spending estimates to increase by a whopping 14 percent compared to the previous year. NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay believes parents who splurged for big-ticket items such as a laptop last year don’t need to buy those items this year, resulting in lower budgets for school supplies.

Shay said that while the federation’s survey showed consumers plan to spend less this year than the previous year, spending levels are still much more robust than during the recession. The estimate for average spending this year is the second-highest on record in the decade the federation has been conducting the survey.

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