EVERETT — School’s out for summer, but school supplies are in.
And retailers are rolling out deep discounts early as consumers are expected to scale back their back-to-school spending.
“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, president of the National Retail Federation.
The group recently released the results of its back-to-school shopping survey, which predicts about $47.5 billion in retail revenue from school and college spending nationwide. Shoppers for children, kindergarten through 12th grade, will spend an average of $548.72 on school merchandise, down 7.7 percent from last year.
Spending for college students is expected to increase about 3 percent over last year, with more students living at home. Fewer students are expected to attend college this fall, driving down overall retail revenue from college students, the study found.
“Parents want to give their children everything necessary for the best education, but, this year, living at home may need to be a concession students need to make,” said Phil Rist, an executive vice president with BIGresearch, which conducts studies for the retail federation. “The trend of students living with their parents will disproportionately impact home furnishings retailers, as fewer people may be purchasing kitchen items, home décor and furniture.”
Retailers around Snohomish County are gearing up for the back-to-school season by holding summer clearance sales. Some stores, like Staples, not only already have back-to-school supplies in stock but also have run major sales events. For supply retailers, the back-to-school season is even bigger than Christmas.
Kimberly Combs, an assistant manager at Staples on Everett’s Evergreen Way, estimates that 60 percent of the store’s sales come from the six-week period from August to mid-September. Keeping in mind that consumers may need to spread out their school spending this year, Staples held its first back-to-school sale last week, offering coupons worth $5 toward every $20 spent in the store.
Computer sales may be the one bright spot in school and college spending this year. Staples’ Combs noted that huge discounts on computers have buoyed electronics sales. The National Retail Federation study also found both college and kindergarten through 12th-grade shoppers will spend more this year on electronics than last year.
Sales of clothing, shoes and dorm furnishings are likely to drop this year, the study found. But that isn’t going to stop places such as the Seattle Premium Outlet center in Tulalip from trying to reel in back-to-school shoppers. The center already has scheduled a fall preview and back-to-school sale for July 30 to Aug. 3.
The Everett Mall has seen a slight increase in retail activity recently, giving Julie Tennyson, mall marking director, hope for the back-to-school season. Like most retailers around the country, stores in the Everett Mall will look to incentives to draw in back-to-school shoppers, Tennyson said. Buyers for junior high and high school students can take advantage of the mall’s gift card deal: buy a $100 gift card, good at most mall stores, and receive a $20 gift card to a handful of teen retailers such as rue21, Aeropostale and Pac Sun.
“The incentives are just getting bigger and bigger,” Tennyson said.