It’s bad news for retail stores, but potentially good news for consumers. Revenue for retail sales increased 3.5 percent in July, but that’s down from a 5.5 percent increase in June.
Mae Laatsch is Madison College marketing instructor and retail expert. “Last week was really the time that was supposed to be the prime season for back-to-school supplies. For some reason, we’re spending money in places other than school supplies.”
Laatsch says the majority of the back-to-school market is clothing, whose sales are down 12 percent from last year. Shoppers are limiting what they buy. “People are doing inventory of what they have left from last year and they’re doing neighborhood swaps so they don’t have to buy new stuff.”
Last year a lot of money was spent on computers, tablets, and calculators, but this year those sales are down. Laatsch says parents are having their kids re-use those electronics or pass them along to their siblings.
Also, those who wait to make their purchases just might see big discounts from desperate retailers. “Maybe they’re waiting for deeper discounts. The consumer today is a much better educated consumer. They will go online and they will shop several outlets and compare prices before they go anywhere.”
There is the possibility that families were enjoying their summer and just haven’t had a chance to do their back-to-school shopping yet, but doubtful. Families with kids in school are expected to spend an average of $634.78, down from $688.62 last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Laatsch says revenue from back-to-school sales is a good indicator of how holiday sales will go.
The back-to-school shopping season runs from mid-July through mid-September.