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Back-to-School Disappointment

Back-to-school sales are weak this year, which is bad news: It suggests that consumers might not be in much of a mood to spend.
New pencils and backpacks and binders are in the category of men’s underwear when it comes to predicting shopper behavior. The problem isn’t that sagging sales of those products represent a huge loss of revenue, but that they imply a grim mood among consumers. It’s nice to buy your kid a new backpack and a bunch of fun pens and a binder to help excite them for the new year. But in tough economic times, you can just use last year’s Jansport, and the pens lying around the house. And that’s what’s happening this year, which suggests that consumers really are feeling the strain. Those green shoots, it seems, are not growing quite fast enough.

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Economy  
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i saw a different article on this last night but also it mentioned and it made sense that it may pick up a little bit because Labor Day is late this year. Some schools went back today but many go back next week and it seems like a lot of last minute shopping will be done to try to ensure the best deals possible.

Posted by: visionbrkr | September 2, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Sales tax holiday weekends were generally later than in previous years, which made August numbers the true test of back-to-school demand in those states, usually in the south, that offer them. There, the big push has been and gone. You can argue that the tax holidays don't generally offer huge bargains, even on big-ticket back-to-school items like computers, because it's also "no-discounting weekend", but they bring people in stores who might otherwise be staying well away.

The schools have been back here for a week, and you still see fairly sad-looking back-to-school displays, with no sign of further discounting.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | September 2, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

People are broke.

Posted by: obrier2 | September 2, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Rather than guessing, I will provide the data point that the list of required school supplies my kindergartner and 3rd grader need this year is about 1/4 as big as in previous years; and that the items previously required are now called "appreciated donations."

Posted by: Joykins | September 2, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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