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Smart Back-to-School Shopping in the Digital Age

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Perhaps you’ve heard it said recently that technology is today’s pencil. That’s quite evident at James A. Garfield local schools this year, where a $5 Million Straight A Grant is providing every student in grades 7-12 with an HP Chromebook.

While parents should pick up their child’s laptop computer before the first day of school on August 26, they still have a traditional list of school supplies to purchase, as well. It’s tempting to think pencils and paper have gone the way of the dinosaur by now, but here’s a look at the seventh grade supply list:

  • 1 Large Box of Tissues (given to 7th period teacher)
  • Loose Leaf Paper
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • 2 pack black Sharpie Markers
  • Spiral Bound Notebooks (2-3 subject and 3-1 subject)
  • 4 – 2 in. binders
  • 5 tab dividers (4 packs)
  • Folders
  • 3X5 Index cards
  • Ruler with inches and centimeters
  • Earbuds or headphones

With the exception of earbuds or headphones, these items have stood the test of time over the generations. And shopping for them still stands as a demarcation between the fun of summer and the anticipation of a new school year.

However, the way we shop for back-to-school supplies has changed. In the name of convenience and speed, online spending for school supplies is outpacing in-store spending, growing 16% and reaching $27 billion in online sales over a three-year period. Combined sales for Back-to-School and Back-to-College readiness is estimated to hit $72.5 billion US dollars this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The Federation expects families to spend $670 on average during the back-to-school season, up 5% over last year, on supplies, clothes and electronics.

Multiple studies of consumers have confirmed that free shipping provides the most powerful incentive to convert consumers to online shopping. Just beware of free shipping offers tied to purchase thresholds. These are a tried-and-true way to lure shoppers into spending more than they intended.

According to USA Today, retailers like Staples, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, Sears and Kmart top the list for offering cheap prices and price-matching guarantees to customers in an effort to stay relevant and competitive over the back-to-school shopping season.

While August is crunch time for back-to-school shopping, peak shopping days for 2014 will likely be Wednesday, August 27 and Thursday, August 28, when summer clearance and back-to-school promotions converge. But the back-to school shopping season lasts through Labor Day (Monday, September 1), which retailers consider the Black Friday of the third quarter.

Be a smart shopper. If you can hold out for major purchases until Labor Day, you may get your best deals a couple weeks after class has already begun.

 

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