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Q&A: Why Are Back-To-School Sales Down?

Aired 8/20/13 on KPBS News.

Consumers are ordinarily big spenders when it comes to back to school purchases. But this year, those sales are down by as much as 9 percent.

Why?

Consumers are ordinarily big spenders when it comes to back to school purchases. But this year, those sales are down by as much as 9 percent.

Why?

KPBS "Morning Edition's" Deb Welsh turned to San Diego State University marketing expert Mira Copic for the answer.

A: There's a number of factors that attribute to this.

And the first and foremost is this year the payroll tax holiday went away at the beginning of the year, so families are paying 2 percent more on taxes overall on their top line income. Unemployment gas been still relatively stubbornly high. I mean it's made some very good progress over the last year, but it's still over 7 percent, especially in the state of California. Middle- and lower- income families are particularly hit hard and so, you have an important part of the economy still struggling with the after affects of the recession and they're just making more judicious choices with their resources.

Q: Is there any indication that "before school sales" or "after school start sales" benefit the consumer?

A: Yes, they do, especially in some ways, the "before school" start sales because this is a narrower set of items that consumers are buying for. They're buying really for their kindergartner through their college student. And it's much more staple-oriented items.

Q: It sounds like very expensive venture...I don't know how a family of three or four, you know in terms of children, how they afford it, really?

A: They don't. They're making very careful decisions. And one of the challenges that they're doing is that they're deciding, they're deferring a decision, they're saying, I'm going to buy what's minimally required for my kids and then, after school starts, we'll see if there's a void I need to fill immediately. Otherwise, I might until the Christmas holidays and add some of those things in that bundle.

If you're wondering how to find the best deals while still spending wisely, experts say you should prioritize, do your homework, and capitalize on student discounts.

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