Parents get late start to back-to-school shopping

Brandy Cox shops for school supplies with her children Makaila Cox and Kara Rich, at the Walmart in West Chester, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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Brandy Cox shops for school supplies with her children Makaila Cox and Kara Rich, at the Walmart in West Chester, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Nearly a quarter of parents haven’t started shopping for back-to-school items yet, and national retailers are feeling the impact.

Of parents surveyed last week, only 13 percent had completed all their shopping, and 23 percent had not started at all, according to the National Retail Federation, which forecast families will spend $83.6 billion on back-to-school this year, including $29.5 billion on K-12 and $54.1 billion on college.

Experts think some parents are waiting later to buy more expensive items to see if they can land a good deal on them right before school starts.

“Similar to recent years, some of the big-ticket items are being significantly influenced by school requirements,” said Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “That is why we are seeing many parents take their time in tackling their lists so they can take advantage of any special promotions that can help them save on items such as laptops and computers.”

» RELATED: Before Ohio’s sales tax holiday, retailers push back-to-school sales

Among parents of younger students in grade school, about 79 percent said they still needed to buy basic supplies such as pencils and paper, up from 77 percent at the same time last year. About 75 percent of those parents also still needed to buy apparel, up from 70 percent who still needed to at the same time last year.

Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, said the federation’s survey reflected more national trends than regional. Ohio retailers have told the council that back-to-school sales have been up so far — in due part to their efforts to work with schools to make sure needed inventory was in stores.

“I would argue the Sales Tax Holiday was helpful,” he said.

Ohio’s sales tax holiday, which fell on the first weekend of August, offered sales tax exemptions on certain items for back-to school shoppers. The deal includes clothing priced up to $75 and school supplies and instruction materials priced under $20.

Ashley Phillips, store manager at the Walmart in Miami Twp., said the Ohio Sales Tax Holiday was the busiest time for shoppers coming in for grade school and high school students.

“It was really all hands on deck,” she said.

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The Ohio Sales Tax Holiday deals were expected to save shoppers more than $3 million in sales taxes. The Ohio Department of Taxation has not released an estimate on how much was spent during this year’s sales tax holiday yet. Ohio’s initial sales tax holiday in August 2015 boosted sales tax revenues by $4.7 million and saved shoppers $3.3 million on sales tax, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati.

Rep. Niraj Ananti, R-Miamisburg, said there’s no doubt that the Ohio Sales Tax Holiday drives revenue for local retailers and gets shoppers spending money out in the local community. He said it’s hard to tell if nationwide shopping trends are directly indicative of what’s going on in Dayton and Ohio, but expects that the holiday did help local stores.

“Retail is going through a lot of change,” he said. “Is it going all online? I don’t think necessarily , but there is certainly going to be a lot of change.”

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While retailers close stores at an alarmingly fast rate this year, Antani said Ohio is positioning itself as a leader for distribution and production facilities as well. Instead of only clerk workers, the state may see more job openings in delivery and distribution — like the 1-million-square-foot Amazon distribution facility that opened about a year ago in Etna, Ohio, just over 20 minutes east of Columbus.

The massive facility is about the size of 28 football fields, and holds tens of millions of products with more than 14 miles of conveyor belts weaving throughout the building. The facility has more than 3,000 full-time employees who pick, pack and shop customer orders.

“It’s really going to be about how we adapt as a state to the changes in the industry,” Antani said.

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BY THE NUMBERS

• $3.3 million was saved by shoppers during the 2015 Ohio Sales Tax Holiday weekend

• 23 percent of parents had not started shopping at all by Aug. 9

• 41 percent of college consumers will likely complete the rest of their shopping online

Source: National Retail Federation

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