Back to school: Discounts dominate shopping

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By Scotty McDaniel

Breaking news: Polka dots are in! Repeating: Polka dots are popular once again -- on folders at least.

And, with soon-to-be 7th-grader Kaitlyn Hudgens, so are any school supplies that are colorful.

“I like orange or lime green,” she reports.

Only the holiday shopping season outdoes this time of year, as Kaitlyn, 12, and her mother, Gayla, join the masses, checking out back-to-school sales on binders, pencils, folders, and paper during the last few days before schools open for another year.

For the Hudgens family, a trip to Walmart on Monday was the final stop on the two-store shopping tour to prepare Kaitlyn for her return to East Middle School, which as a district school starts back up on Aug. 13.

According to the National Retail Federation, four out of five Americans said their budget for back-to-school shopping is affected by the economy. Gayla Hudgens fits into that ratio. She said she went to two different stores to find the best deals.

Though she said she wouldn't be buying fewer school supplies compared to previous years, she said she is shopping more efficiently.

“We look for the sales,” she said. “That’s why I bought some things at Target, because they were a little cheaper than at Walmart, and then we’re finishing up here. It’s gone pretty easy this year.”

Discount shopping is nothing new, but when faced with the worst economy since the Great Depression, saving money is especially vital for families.

The NRF reports almost 53 percent of those surveyed said that they’d be shopping for sales this year.

And a recent survey by the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP showed that 64 percent of its 1,044 respondents said they planned to spend less this year than they did last year.

The basic school supplies remain prominent, with pencils, paper, folders, binders and the like leading the charge. But there are some other hot gadgets students may have their eyes on this year.

More so with older students, laptop computers like the Apple MacBook Pro are becoming increasingly popular. Ipod accessories are must-haves.

The Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium Graphing Calculator is a popular seller among high school students.

The Wordlock 5-Dial Padlock is a handy tool for all students. The lock allows the user to create a customized 5-letter word as a password.

Thrift trend

Though Walmart was the last store the Hudgens hit, other families are looking to take their savings a bit further. Thrift stores generally see an increase in business during the back-to-school shopping season, and Goodwill Communications & Public Relations Specialist Heather Hise thinks that this year could see an even greater jump of people looking for bargains.

“Goodwill typically sees an influx of customers during September and October as a result of back-to-school shopping and the change in seasons,” Hise said. “This year, we might see a wider variety of people shopping with us -- perhaps people who might not have considered Goodwill as a shopping destination before, but who are now joining our regular customers in looking for a good bargain.”