Susan Bradley and two of her three daughters, Hope and Lily, of Centerville were shopping early for back-to-school supplies Tuesday. They like to beat the rush on things like folders and use tax-free weekend for clothing. STAFF PHOTO / HOLLY SHIVELY
Photo: Holly Shively
Photo: Holly Shively

Back-to-school shopping begins early as schools prepare for openings

Back-to-school sales have started in area stores before many families have completed their summer vacation.

Stores began setting up back-to-school displays last week in anticipation of Dayton-area school start dates as early as the week of Aug. 5. Miamisburg students begin school on Aug. 8.

Back-to-school spending helps drive the economy, and is the second largest revenue driver behind the Christmas season for retailers, according to the National Retail Federation. Sales are expected to generate $80.7 billion this year in the United States.

“Shopping is a social experience,” said Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants. “You’re out with your your parents or legal guardian or you’re shopping by yourself, you may stop and get gas, shop inside the convenience store, eat at the mall or maybe someone’s going to get their nails done or get their hair done while they’re at the mall.”

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Roughly 44 percent of people have already started back-to-school shopping, according to NRF. But about 49 percent of people said they’re still waiting for deals, like the upcoming Ohio tax-free shopping holiday beginning Aug. 2 at 12 a.m. and running through 11:59 p.m. Aug. 4. Former Gov. John Kasich made the holiday permanent last year.

Susan Bradley of Centerville will do both, she said, while shopping for back to school gear Tuesday with Hope and Lily Bradley, two of her three daughters.

“I’m out early to beat the crowds and have the greatest selection,” Bradley said. “For clothing and shoes we do wait for tax-free weekend. For school supplies I don’t…you don’t save as much there, so I’d rather spend my time tax-free weekend buying clothing and more expensive items like clothing, shoes and jackets and things.”

Veronica Bullerd, a kindergarten teacher at Walter Shade Elementary in West Carrollton, also hits stores early to get the best selection, but with an average $500 she’ll spend out of her own pocket to stock her classroom, she said she’ll be shopping all summer.

Selection on trendy, stylized items will be the first to go, said Joe Hirschmugl, spokesman for Meijer. The company has seen growing interest in folders with designs and textures, new styles of backpack and locker decorations over the last few years. It’s likely a factor of a healthy economy where families have more money to spend on goods that surpass the basics, he said.

The average amount a household will spend for both K-12 and college shopping this year is expected to be more than any other year since NRF started surveying in 2003, a symptom of a healthy economy where consumers have more money in their pockets, Gough said.

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Families said they would pay an average $696.70 on back-to-school shopping for kindergarten through high school, an increase of about $12 from last year, and $976.78 for back-to-college, about $33 more than last year, according to NRF.

Increasing use of technology in the classroom and at home could also be contributing to larger household costs, Gough said.

But the $80.7 billion spending total is down more than $3 billion from 2017. The decline in spending over the last two years is likely a result of fewer families saying they have children in grades K-12 and fewer respondents planning to go to college.

Stores are also continuing to make back-to-school merchandise available in more ways as competition increases, Gough said, including with special deals and digital sales.

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Meijer expanded its teacher discount this year to 15 percent and made it available through the entire summer, so teachers don’t have to search for deals to save money when stocking their classroom out of their own pockets, Hirschmugl said.

Amazon recently launched its own Happy School Year store and nearly 60 percent of people planned to shop Monday and Tuesday’s Amazon Prime Day for deals on school supplies.

Walmart in recent months has expanded its pickup technology, and customers can take advantage of online shopping to avoid back-to-school rushes in stores, said Bud Klorer, store manager of the Kingsridge Drive Walmart in Centerville.

Most stores have also started back-to-school sales earlier, up to as soon as the Fourth of July ended, several store leaders said. As soon as the holiday weekend passes, stores begin setting up their display, said Tiffany Shope, a manger at the Beavercreek Target. Before students used to go back after Labor Day, but now its inching earlier in August, she said.

“We’ll see a little shopping within the first month. But you know, our biggest shopping time will be the tax free weekend, because that’s where they can get more more items for their dollar,” Klorer said.

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