Locally, Target, K-Mart and some of the discount stores have already begun to beef up their seasonal back-to-school items, months ahead of the frenzy that usually follows the first day of school in September.
"We are looking for a lot of promotions to drive traffic and get consumers into the stores because of the weak economy," says Ken Perkins, an analyst with Retail Metrics, a leading consulting firm that tracks same store sales. "I think back to school is setting up to be very competitive, very promotional and it is going to be a difficult one for the retailers."
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The early rush has some moms out there already, noticing that things are on sale earlier but apparently not minding it.
"You've got to watch and get your sales early, otherwise you are paying triple for things, and when you have kids and can get things cheaper, you get them when you can," says Kim, a Tonawanda mother of two, already shopping for school supplies at the Office Max on Sweet Home Road in Amherst Monday.
She tells WBEN she has noticed more stores beginning the annual effort earlier this year, and stores are sold out sooner because more shoppers are taking advantage of it.
"You want to beat the crowds to get it. (If) you don't get the sale as soon as the sale starts, you miss out and you have to go to five other stores to get it," she says.
She is apparently not alone. Anecodotally, Kiss 98.5's Janet Snyder has been taking calls from moms on this topic for days.
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Burt Flickinger III, Strategic Resources Group:
" Anyone who shops Target, Wal-Mart, the bigger stores, the bins are out, and it's almost this undercurrent of moms saying ' did you go?' because this is seriously the best time of the year. The best deals are right now, for school supplies," Snyder says.
June is a period when stores clear out summer merchandise to make room for fall goods. So it is typically the second-biggest shopping month behind December.
But because spending was so tepid last month and it took more discounts to get shoppers to buy, March may end up the biggest month, says Mike Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers
Against this backdrop, Niemira expects a modest 2.5 percent increase in total back-to-school sales from mid-July through mid-September. If that happens, the result would be lower than last year's 3.6 percent increase and the 5.4 percent gain in 2010. But it would be a big improvement over the 4 percent drop in 2009.