Back-to-School Retail Sales off to Slow Start

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

It's the second biggest shopping season of the year, but early sales numbers are suggesting back-to-school shoppers might not be spending as much as retailers were hoping.

While the season has only just begun, a preliminary tally by the International Council of Shopping Centers found sales were already looking sluggish compared to this time last year.

And while the figures on the national level showing a somewhat disappointing start for the season the picture in Michigan might be a bit different.

Tom Scott, senior vice president with the Michigan Retailers Association said while they don't have sales figures yet for the state for the back-to-school shopping season, early indications from retailers from a June survey revealed lofty expectations.

"Incredible optimism," Scott said. "It was the highest figures we've had in nine years in terms of the forecast."

Scott said 92 percent of retailers said they expected to increase sales from last year during this same period.

But even with higher expectations, Scott said the slower start wasn't entirely surprising given the state of the economy still.

"While it's improving, it's still not going gangbusters," he said. "People are still concerned so one month they'll go out and spend a little more freely and then they'll pull back, June was one of those pullback months."

But if you're thinking the slow start will have retailers rolling out big sales and deep discounts sooner than expected you might want to think again.

"I'm sure they were planning some pretty good sales already so I don't think it makes any sense to just sit back and wait and see if the discounts are going to go through the roof," he said.

A survey by the National Retail Federation found families were expected to spend about $638 on back-to-school shopping in 2013 which was about $50 less than the previous year.

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