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Back-to-school buying
Tax holiday missed, but school sales likely brisk
Store manager Larry Wilkerson, below, said children’s clothing is a large draw this time of year at Kohl's. - photo by Autumn McBride

Students and parents aren’t the only ones preparing for a new school year.

Area retailers are ready to meet families’ back-to-school needs as Forsyth County students head back to the classroom Aug. 11.

"It is very much like a big holiday in that it involves a lot different areas of the store, from the school supplies to clothing to grocery items," said Steve Reid, manager of the Cumming Super Target on Market Place Boulevard.

According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, total kindergarten through 12th grade spending nationwide is expected to reach $22.8 billion.

Families with school-age children are expected to spend an average of $603 on apparel, school supplies and electronics, the survey found.

Combined K-12 and college spending is expected to reach $68.8 billion, making the back-to-school season the second biggest consumer spending period for retailers, trailing only the holiday season.

Reid agreed that college shopping factors in the store’s back-to-school business.

"Back to college is greatly tied into it," he said. "That involves a lot of areas since many of the college kids are going to be living away from home for the first time."

For high school age and younger students, a large chuck of back-to-school spending revolves around clothing.

Larry Wilkerson, store manager of Kohl’s, also on Market Place Boulevard, said the weeks leading up to the start of a new school year are "all about the clothes."

"Our boys, girls and juniors sections are busy," he said. "The juniors get a big bump due to all the teen girls."

Wilkerson said "basics," or underwear and socks, also get a huge boost.

"Especially in our young men’s sections," he said. "Girls seem to purchase those items all throughout the year as they need them, but young men seem to purchase all those items right before a new school year."

Reid said the items are also big sellers at Target.

"We’ve always got bonus packs this time of year so parents are getting their money’s worth," Reid said.

Sales of outer wear are also strong at both stores.

"Everyone wants to look their best when school starts back," Reid said.

Both he and Wilkerson said denim is always in demand.

Some other popular items include T-shirts for teens, said Wilkerson, and skirts and tops for girls.

Alexandria Wisler was shopping for girls’ skirts Tuesday at Kohl’s.

"We need uniforms for my two kids who go to Horizon [Christian Academy]," Wisler said. "This is the best place to get them because of the prices."

Wendy Walter was shopping for clothes for her 5-year-old, Anna, who will be attending kindergarten at a church school.

Both Wisler and Walter said they missed the Georgia sales tax holiday, which until last year was held one weekend before the start of school.

"I like it when we do have the [sales tax] holiday and I would like to have it back," Wisler said. "But [students] still have to have all their school stuff. Now, you just have to go for the best prices."

Added Walter, "It would have been nice to have the holiday, but I always shop off the clearance racks anyway, so it didn’t make that big of a difference."

Wilkerson said retailers miss the tax holiday, which has been suspended during the state’s budget crunch, but school-related sales are still good without it.

"Last year, the first year we didn’t have it, it did have a pretty significant impact, and this year it’s more of the same," he said.

"We still sell a lot of merchandise, but now it’s just more spread out and with the sales tax holiday it was more condensed into one weekend."

Besides students and parents, teachers are also doing a lot of back-to-school shopping.

That’s good for Deanne Townsend, owner of Teacher Toys on Dahlonega Highway.

The shop specializes in teacher supplies, such as wall decorations, workbooks, educational toys and teacher planning books.

"We’re super busy before school starts," Townsend said. "It’s my favorite time of year."

She explained that most teachers buy supplies for the entire year.

"We get a lot of new teachers who need things to decorate their classrooms for the first time, and veteran teachers need something new to brighten their rooms for the new year," Townsend said.

"It’s like our Christmas because it’s our busiest time of year."