Shoppers waiting longer for back-to-school purchases

'People are buying things as they need them.'

Stuart Solup has been running Irving’s Shoe Store in Portsmouth since the 1970s, and in that time he’s had a keen view of back-to-school shopping trends. In fact, Solup says that the back-to-school season accounts for about 30 percent of his yearly business. More

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Shoppers waiting longer for back-to-school purchases

'People are buying things as they need them.'

BLOOMBER FILE PHOTO/DAVID PAUL MORRIS
A CUSTOMER LOOKS OVER back-to-school merchandise.
Posted 9/10/12

Stuart Solup has been running Irving’s Shoe Store in Portsmouth since the 1970s, and in that time he’s had a keen view of back-to-school shopping trends. In fact, Solup says that the back-to-school season accounts for about 30 percent of his yearly business.

So he’d know if rumors were true that this year families were waiting to shop until after school began – spurred in part by a slow start to the shopping season.

“[No]. They’re getting it done ahead of time, over here anyway,” the fourth-generation owner of the shop said. “It’s been steady, and we’ve been doing very well.”

Solup spoke about his store’s success on Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day, which traditionally marks the end of the back-to-school shopping period, historically one of retail’s strongest behind the Christmas season.

The National Retail Federation’s 2012 Back-to-School spending survey estimated that school-centered shopping this year will total $83.8 billion.

That figures includes spending on children attending elementary and high schools as well as teenagers and young adults entering or returning to college.

The NRF is a trade association based in Washington, D.C., that represents the United States retail industry as well as that industry in 45 other countries.

The survey, conducted by BIGinsight, an Ohio consumer insight firm, reported that, on average, those with children in grades K-12 were expected to spend about $688 on their children.

And contrary to Solup’s experience, shoppers across the nation seem to be holding off. The association reported that in mid-August, the average shopper for children in grades K-12 had completed 40.1 percent of their shopping and that those buying for college students had finished 45.3 percent of their shopping.

But by the same time in 2011, K-12 shoppers had finished 43 percent of their shopping.

This year, 7.8 percent of shoppers had finished back-to-school shopping. In 2011, 11.8 percent had done the same by mid August.

“It’s evident that there are plenty ‘last-minute shoppers’ this year,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO in a statement. “Given how much of an impact the economy is having on consumers’ buying decisions, retailers will remain competitive up through the final sale after Labor Day.”

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