Retailers banking on big comeback in back to school shopping

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Retailers banking on a big comeback in back to school shopping
Retailers are banking on big comeback in back to school shopping, shoppers might find few sales.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- We don't know how many kids are truly excited about going back to the classroom, but stores that sell kids' clothing are. The pandemic saw clothing sales fall by billions of dollars. But retailers are now banking on a big comeback. As part of our week-long series, Back to School, we look at the trends and some ways to stretch your budget.

Families are facing two realities as the school year starts: Kids keep outgrowing their clothes, and the jammies they wore during Zoom classes won't cut it in the classroom. So it's time to start shopping for back-to-school clothes.

Overall, back-to-school spending is expected to hit $37 billion this year, up $4 billion from last year, or about $849 per household. That includes $253 for clothing and accessories. The remainder is for electronics and shoes.

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Retailers are busy promoting new styles, keying in on kids wanting to wear something fun and fashionable for a change. However, there's always the uncertainty of whether the rising number of COVID cases might cause a last-minute return to remote learning. Walmart says it's prepared for that.

"So we're really trying to be prepared to meet those demands and offer items that are used at home for school or used in the classroom for school," said Walmart spokesman Tyler Thomason.

What shoppers might find disappointing are the few sales.

"A lot of retailers are less promotional this year because they know people are going to be shopping for clothing, so they don't need to necessarily have sales, and they're also trying to make up for last year," said Amanda Lai, senior manager at retail consulting firm McMillan Doolittle.

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School is set to make a "full return," but how does the Delta variant change things? We spoke to local experts, who explain why it's safe.

Bargain shoppers will find deals and ample selection at thrift stores, such as Goodwill of Silicon Valley.

"People really cleaned out their closets, and so we have an abundance of clothing," said its CEO, Mike Fox.

Families on tight budgets have always found this a way to save money. However, Fox points out they also have new merchandise from retailer close-outs.

"We're able to sell that at 40 to 50 percent of what that store sells brand new, and many people donate brand new clothing, too. So we've seen substantial discounts to what you would buy."

There's also the environmental benefit of buying what they call gently used clothing by diverting it from landfill disposal.

The 18 stores across the Santa Clara Valley just had their second-biggest week of sales in recent history.

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