Supply side: It’s time to get the kids packed up for school

08/09/2014 12:00 AM

08/10/2014 10:01 AM

School’s in for summer.

Unlike the days of yore – you know, way back when the parents were the kids – most Modesto-area students are back to the books beginning Monday. Many returned to the hallowed halls of their campuses last week.

Students in the Riverbank Unified, Oakdale Joint Unified, Roberts Ferry Union, Valley Home Joint and Waterford Unified districts began the school year last week. On Monday, kids in the Modesto City, Sylvan Union, Salida Union and several other districts meet their teachers; and a handful of other districts begin classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and even Thursday.

Kids in three other Stanislaus County districts, Turlock Unified, Hart-Ransom and Hickman, get a one-week reprieve, with classes beginning Aug. 18.

There’s no denying that the terms “summer vacation” and “new fall semester” have become misnomers for Valley students – and their parents. School once began after Labor Day, which, while still not officially autumn on the calendar, at least came after the unofficial end of summer. Now, it comes at peak pool-use time.

So a lot of families will be out in the seasonal heat this weekend, madly shopping for school supplies. And there’s certainly no shortage in stores of nifty backpacks, pencil cases, erasers and more for kids young and older.

In my house, however, we’ve found it a better idea to wait until after the first day or two of classes begin before we commit to folders, notebooks, pencils and such. That’s because, invariably, teachers have their own preferences and sometimes marching orders, for what kids will need to bring to class.

And I know we’re not alone because we always find ourselves, after the dismissal bells have rung on the first day of classes, packed in the school supply aisles with droves of other parents and students of all ages, reaching and grabbing for what’s left on the shelves.

The sum families will spend on supplies this year is up slightly over last year, according to the National Retail Federation, based on a poll of 6,178 U.S. consumers conducted in July.

The average family with kids in kindergarten through 12th will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from last year, according to the trade group’s 2014 Back-to-School Survey.

“Back-to-school is the second-largest sales driving season that we have as a company,” according to Jenna Reck, a company spokeswoman for Target. “It’s second only to the holiday season. It’s critically, critically important for Target.”

Requests from teachers for classroom contributions is a possible factor in increased spending on supplies, according to the survey, which predicted a 12 percent hike in such spending this summer over last – to an average of $101.18 from $90.49 in 2013.

Since 2009, the retail federation has been asking how the U.S. economy plays out in school supply shopping. While spending has loosened up slightly this year over last, more families are going for store brands or generic items for school – 34 percent when compared to 32.8 percent last year, the survey said. And 25.6 percent hope to get along with last year’s items, up from 23.7 percent last year.

Nearly 20 percent said they shop online more often to save money, up from 18.5 percent last year and the highest percentage ever noted by the retail federation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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