Back-to-school already? Didn’t we just celebrate the July 4th holiday? How is it already time for retailers to roll out their back-to-school campaigns?
In fact it’s not time to already be hearing this call to arms from retailers. Most kids still have about five weeks left of summer vacation before they head back to school. But retailers seem to be jumping the gun a bit this year, rolling out their back-to-school inventory and commercials as of early July.
In years past the back-to-school sales have started around the first of August. Typically this week or next week should be the first time we’re hearing about the topic. This year though, stores started early. REALLY early. In fact some retailers started promoting back-to-school items way back in June! Yea, the month kids typically get out of school to START summer break. Kmart and Staples both rolled out advertising campaigns last month with deals offering 15-30 percent off items like clothing, notepads, binders, pens and dorm sized mini-refrigerators. Last week I got a sales flyer from Bed, Bath, & Beyond advertising dormitory bedding and accessories for a discount, along with their standard 20 percent off coupon.
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Why are retailers starting so much earlier this year? Low consumer confidence. Despite higher sales expectations, the National Retail Federation expects parents will spend about $668.82 on back-to-school supplies this year compared to $603.63 last year, retailers are worried. Retail sales have been lagging since early April. So in an effort to jump start their profits, back-to-school retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, K-mart and Staples have rolled out their advertising campaigns much earlier this year.
To entice shoppers this early, retailers know they have to offer really great deals. And that’s exactly what some of them have done. If your child has to wear a uniform to school, head to Wal-Mart right now. They are selling school uniform staples like white blouses for $5, which is half the price they sold them for last year. K-mart is offering 30 percent off its Juniors clothing for both boys and girls. They are sweetening the deal for their online customers as well by offering a $5 flat shipping rate.
Even Apple is looking to make some money. Now through September 11th you can get a MacBook Air for $949, that’s $50 off the retail price. Plus a $100 gift card that can be used to purchase apps, e-books and digital textbooks. Dell is giving students a free Xbox or $200 e-gift card for its site with the purchase of select computers.
Finally time to get your teenager a cell phone? T-Mobile is having a buy one, get one deal on their Samsung Galaxy 4G smartphones, now through September 4th. Not wanting to be edged out by the competition, Barnes and Noble is offering a $50 gift card to consumers that purchase a Nook tablet before July 29th.
While these deals are good, beware. Many stores currently offering back-to-school promotions are not offering good deals at all. Many of the items you see listed in the sales circulars are actually being offered at their full retail price.
Fall clothing deals are a big rip off right now. Cold weather clothing like boots, coats, thick sweaters, and jeans won’t be good deals until at least September. Instead right now stock up on summer clearance items that will last you into the fall. T-shirts, tank tops and other light weight clothing are the items that are good deals right now.
Tablets have become the new must have accessory for students and children in the past few years. They’re great for entertainment as well as for homework. If they have become a necessary item for you or your child, try to hold off on buying one till September. Prices that month will probably dip by about 10 percent. Obviously this advice doesn’t apply to the iPad who doesn’t drop their prices until after the next version comes out. Look for less popular brands like Barnes & Noble’s Nook and ones made by Samsung or Toshiba to get the best deals next month.
Sending Jack or Jane off to college this year? Don’t rush outfit their dorm rooms just yet. The good deals for dormitory bedding and furniture don’t start till about the second week of August. Despite retailers proclaiming great back-to-school deals right now, their best deals come in the middle of August when retailers are more desperate to make a sale.
So what are the good deals to be had out there right now? Items like notebook paper, pencils, crayons, folders and spiral notebooks are often offered at extreme discounts right now to entice shoppers inside. Stores use these items as loss leaders to get shoppers to pay full price on other items that they make a much bigger margin on (clothing, electronics, bedding, furniture, etc.).
The big lesson here? Wait. Better back-to-school deals are to come. The middle of August will net you some good deals. If you can wait till September you’ll find even better deals. Always remember to work against the stores, never buy when they tell you now is the time to buy something.
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