Stores banking on strong 'back-to-school' sales - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Stores banking on strong 'back-to-school' sales

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WASHINGTON. - In a survey, four out of five Americans say the economy will affect back-to-school spending and college plans.

Back-to-school shopping is the second largest time of the year for retail sales, right behind the holiday period, but the fragile economy could erase any profits, especially for clothing and department stores.

"The economy has rolled over a year, year and a half ago. We've been in a fashion recession so to speak for up to three years," says Jeff Klinefelter, retail analyst for Piper Jaffray.

Retail sales for clothing and electronics have been off for the past few months and unemployment continues to climb.

The National Retail Federation estimates consumers will spend on average $550 on back to school items. That's $50 less than last year.

"Just getting what's on the list and nothing else," says shopper Sarah Rowe.

"I'm still shopping at the same places, maybe not buying as much," adds shopper Kristen Kouri.

Retailers are taking note of the frugal mind set to compete with discount stores and office supply chains.

They're slashing prices and focusing ads on the basics.

There is a new concern for retailers selling big ticket items; College students who will be living at home, a number that  has increased 20 percent in the past two years.

"So the retailers that we're really expecting to be affected by that are the ones that are selling home furnishings and home decor because when you live at home you don't need silverware, a microwave or extra long sheets," says Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation.

Analysts estimate discount stores will have the biggest draw, with nearly 75 percent of shoppers heading there for back-to-school supplies.

Drug stores are also gaining in popularity for one-stop shop destinations.

One bright spot is electronics. Sales for laptops and other computer items are expected to be up 11 percent.

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