Retailers await kids' verdicts at checkout
For retailers, the year has seven seasons — fall, winter, spring, summer, Christmas, Easter and back-to-school.
The latter is upon us now.
Hopefully at a nationwide cost of $75 billion it will spread happiness, new scholarly beginnings and resolutions to bring home all A's in any home blessed with children in the learning years.
Back-to-school spending should rise 3 percent from last year. That's “good” but not “great,” according to the National Retail Federation, because last year's dropped 3 percent from the year before. The last “great” year was 2005; sales surged 7 percent.
Still, $75 billion at the checkouts means the average family will fork over $669 and change, up from 2013's $635 — on such necessaries as apparel, shoes, school supplies and electronics.
The key question: What will all the other kids be wearing when the bell rings? Being able to answer that separates success and failure at retailing.
Keep in mind, store managers have to “stock up” by instinct, experience and seat-of-the-pants months ahead, even a year or more, before a single back-to-schooler shows up in the store aisles. Talk about risk. We think sports are competitive — retailing is competitive!
Who would have thought, for example, that golf equipment, to take one chancy market, would double-bogey this summer for sporting goods vendors?
Or that a certain color of girl's blouse or cut of a boy's trousers just might not “move”?
Disaster and price markdowns can happen just like that. It's sobering to reflect that for some retailers 2014 will be the last back-to-school.
Many will be glad to beat last year's figures by 3 or 4 percent, keeping just ahead of inflation in rent, utilities, regulation and labor costs.
Six or 7 percent would be terrific, a precursor maybe to a strong Christmas. (Back-to-school is second only to Santa Claus as a mover of consumer goods.)
Prudent families can't allow back-to-school to become break-the-bank.
Not every child absolutely needs a brand-new outfit if an older child has grown out of, but hasn't worn out, last year's outfit. You'll never see it advertised, but there is budgeting virtue in good old traditional hand-me-downs. Let's hope this can still be practiced amid the cruel pressures on childhood to consume with the class leaders. Some of the latter may have terrible taste, keep in mind.
Where, for example, did such atrocities as new, pre-torn jeans come from? Let's hope school dress codes come down hard on that one, along with body pierces and tattoos all over arms and legs.
Taste can't be left to kids. Nor prices either. Imagine sneakers over $100 a pair.
As to the other good resolutions of a new school year — to make better grades, play a sport, learn a musical instrument or take a part-time job to save something for college — more power to back-to-school kids. And the mothers and dads who pay the bills.
Jack Markowitz is a columnist for Trib Total Media. Email email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Flyers continue mastery of Penguins at Consol
- EQT Corp. boosts profits despite lower gas prices
- Starkey: Century mark beckons for Ben
- Steelers’ defense on pace for fewest sacks in 16-game season
- Wanted sex offender caught hiding in homemade fort in Washington County
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- Canada’s PM says shooting rampage was terrorism
- Allegheny County explores state of Mon Valley area health
- Highmark seeks double-digit increase for more benefits, heavy use
- 3 men arrested on drug charges in Donora
- Officials identify witness to Port Authority bus crash after releasing photo