Cash-conscious shoppers are being money savvy this back-to-school season, searching for bargains at discount stores, cruising consignment stores and raising a few bucks for the family budget by selling their outgrown goods on social media sites, including Facebook.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Back-to-School Spending Survey, the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school needs, slightly down from $669.28 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $24.9 billion.
Consumers are “taking inventory” from last year’s purchases and leftover school supplies and buying only what they need, the NRF said. That’s a trend confirmed by Metro Detroit retailers, who say they see good crowds in stores but more select shopping.
“It’s always a mix and the best way to measure is total dollars spent overall. I can say that sales are steady, and we expect this to be a strong back-to-school season,” said Emily Taucher, marketing and sponsorship director at Novi’s Twelve Oaks Mall. She said traffic is flowing into the mall’s new stores, including Lululemon, Athletica and Garage.
Traffic has been steady at consignment stores as well, according to shop owners. These days, people are in the mood to purchase as well as purge, said Melissa Jenkins, co-owner of Second Glance Resale shops in Eastpointe, St. Clair Shores and Grosse Pointe Woods.
“People want to start the school year off with organized closets, so we see a lot of people cleaning out their kids’ room and bringing in lots of stuff to sell,” Jenkins said.
Second Glance Resale blends gently used merchandise with new items purchased in bulk, such as school uniforms, lunch boxes and backpacks. Jenkins is seeing a brisk business in college necessities as well with families looking for bargains on bedding and small appliances.
For those who want to wait until their kids are in school to shop, Jennifer Strawter of Savvy Kids Consignment is preparing her fall sale. Strawter organizes two giant “Mom to Mom”-style sales each year; it started with 17 consigners and has grown into more than 100 seven years later. This fall, the sale is Sept. 25-26 at the Warren Community Center.
“There’s always a line out of the door when we open to the public,” said Strawter, who used to own a brick-and-mortar children’s store before founding Savvy Kids Consignment. “A lot of moms come together and make a day of it.”
Finding ways to help families save money on back-to-school shopping and other purchases has become a business of sorts for Ericka Friedel, a St. Clair Shores stay-at-home mom. Friedel, who buys and sells for herself on Facebook swap sites, started offering to post items for her friends as well, taking a percentage of the sales price as her fee.
“Last September, I was driving home from school on the first day and realized that I could (sell gently used children’s clothing) for myself as well as for other people,” Friedel said. “I’ve always enjoyed doing garage sales and chatting with the people who come over; I’ll talk to anyone.”
That business drive now has Friedel’s basement packed with clothing bins that other moms bring by, especially as they prepare for back to school. Friedel even searches for certain brands, such as The North Face and Ralph Lauren, for moms who want to buy only designer or high-end, name-brand merchandise for their kids to wear to school.
“It’s become a job for me,” Friedel said. “People are always selling now, looking to move these items out of their basement or attic and into the hands of someone else who can use them. It levels the playing field (and) it makes people happy. … I just wish this had been around when my kids were little. I would have saved a ton of money.”
Karen Dybis is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.