Kelly Tadusz has been to four stores looking for a see-through mesh bookbag.
“I’ve never even heard of such a thing,” Tadusz said. “Have you?”
Sheila Burr, of Williamsville, won’t be able to rest until she finds a 0.77-ounce washable glue stick and a 100-count box of five-ounce Dixie cups.
Wendy Simons, of the Town of Tonawanda, searched three Walmarts before she found the white, 1.5-inch, three-ring binder she needed. Now all she needs is a hardcover primary journal. Where are the primary journals? Somebody find her the primary journals!
It’s the last gasp of back-to-school shopping before classes begin next week and the stores are mobbed as parents scramble to find very specific items on their children’s school supply lists.
No two back-to-school shoppers are alike at this time of year – unless you count their frazzled faces and panicked demeanor.
There are those who started weeks ago. Some split their shopping into more financially manageable segments and are just finishing up that final leg. Some thought they were finished but, when they started packing their backpacks to get organized for the coming year, they realized they were not.
Many folks have just begun their shopping; some because they were waiting for their teachers’ lists, some because they were waiting for their Friday paycheck, many because they were in denial that summer would ever end.
They all have different shopping styles, too.
Mikhail Chekhov, a penny-pinching high school student, meticulously compares prices. He will reuse anything he can from last year, and is hoping to get away with stocking up on nothing but loose-leaf paper and a few new notebooks.
Derrick Beasley, of Amherst, has a different strategy for his daughter’s eighth-grade supplies.
“I stand here. She picks it out and throws it in,” he said, as 13-year-old Takeria tosses a hot pink calculator into his shopping cart. “I see folders for 37 cents, but I notice she’s grabbing the ones that cost $2.50.”
Despite the last-minute shopping frenzy playing out in stores right now, research shows some parents finished their shopping earlier than ever.
Working under tight financial pressures, many parents took advantage of aggressive retail promotions that rolled out as early as June. More than half of parents had completed their shopping by mid-August, which is up from about 40 percent who had finished by that time last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Families are expected to spend an average of $634.78 on supplies, clothes and electronics this year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. That’s about $54 less than last year, as families look for ways to keep costs down.
Many parents described strategies that included bargain hunting, using coupons, recycling items and buying generic goods.
Denise Dolce was able to save some money by getting a hand-me-down graphing calculator from her niece. She still needs to buy two more of the expensive devices for her kids, but it helps.
“We just get by. What do people do who don’t have as much money as we do?” said Denise Dolce of Kenmore.
Wallet-conscious consumers have translated into weak sales for retailers and coincide with lackluster consumer spending numbers.
The Commerce Department said Friday that consumer spending rose just 0.1 percent in July from the previous month at a slower growth rate than June. Consumers’ spending drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity. Overall, wages and salaries tumbled $21.8 billion from June to July.
Statistics like those have dampened economist outlooks for the July to September quarter.
“This is a disappointing report on a number of levels,” said James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics.