Stores prepare for new school yearWritten by Michael Stainbrook | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Local retailers are stocking their shelves for the upcoming school year with hopes of making a profit before the opening bell marks the first day of classes.
Department stores and supercenters are slashing prices, breaking out the latest trends and even holding special events to attract parents and schoolchildren to their doorsteps as continued economic hardships have led to more frugal spending habits.
“Consumers are looking for a deal and are a lot more choosy,” said Allen Snowden, store manager of the Kohl’s in west Toledo. “Do children really need a new pair of shoes or can they use the ones from last year?”
Kohl’s is among the department stores that began promoting back-to-school specials in July. Others will begin advertising for school apparel in early August.
“[Sales] heat up the second week of August,” said Dave Stockwell, store manager of Dillard’s at Westfield Franklin Park. Stockwell added that he is using “different strategies” for marketing his products than he has in past years.
In 2009, he aimed to steady the ship by making large price cuts to keep customers. This year, the focus is back on profitability.
“It’s better than it was last year,” Stockwell said. “Maybe our markdowns aren’t quite as steep as they used to be.
“Some people will spend a couple extra bucks to get better service. Some people will drive a couple extra miles to get better service. That’s what we strive for.”
Kohl’s takes a different approach by slashing prices on many clothing options for students. Snowden said the store’s size allows for a wide selection.
“The economy’s really not taken off all that much,” he said. “I think we’re offering some really good deals to attract customers in.”
Style is another aspect of back-to-school shopping. While many districts now require uniforms, some stores still stock their shelves with the latest fashions.
Dillard’s recently picked up Jessica Simpson’s new clothing line, while Meijer keeps up on the evolving trends for backpacks. Meijer also provides many items necessary for college students.
“We are tying a lot of promotions with Facebook and Twitter this year, which makes a lot of sense when talking about [going] back to college,” said Frank Guglielmi, Meijer spokesman.
Two stores are hosting back-to-school events to attract customers. Dillard’s has Kid’s Day, which will take place Aug. 14 and features price markdowns, as well as fun events for children.
Meijer sponsors an annual back-to-college event at its Bowling Green store Aug. 20. The event features food, a Guitar Hero contest and discounted items for students. The event runs from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
“Retail has become about being innovative,” Guglielmi said. “Being privately held, we can be very nimble and react very quickly to ideas.”
Stores, such as Macy’s, Target and Walmart, also have back-to-school selections. With a variety of shopping choices, parents and students have options when it comes to preparing for another year of classes.