Back-to-school shopping slow for Utah retailers

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SALT LAKE CITY -- According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, the average family has more than half of their back-to-school shopping to complete, and one-third of families with school-age children haven't even started.

Times are tough, and a lot of parents don't have the spending money they used to.

"Things are a little bit tighter this year," Tonia Wensel said. "Trying to save more when you have a larger family, you tend to kind of have to divvy it out and even it out between all of them."

**Back to school spending per family**
Families of students K-12: $548.72, down from $594.24 in 2008 Families of college students: $618.12, up from $599.38 in 2008 -*National Retail Association*
"We're just not buying as much this year," said Steve Coss. "I was laid off seven months ago, so we're tapering back quite a bit." Utah stores haven't seen the business they normally do during the back-to-school shopping season. The Utah Retail Merchants Association reports sales in July were down 4 to 6 percent from last year.

**Top shopping influences**
Coupons 43.4%
Advertising inserts 42.1%
Newspapers 32.2%
In-store promotions 32.1%
Word of mouth 29.9%
Direct mail 16.2%

-National Retail Association

Those who are shopping, though, should plan on spending $548.72 this year on school merchandise if they have kids in grades K through 12. That's the average, according to the National Retail Federation. The organization says families with kids headed to college will spend a bit more: $618.12. Most will be focused on getting a good deal.

"JC Penny [has] been a good one," Wensel said. "It seems like the stores are kind of feeling the crunch too, so they've been able to offer some pretty good deals."

Another parent, Pamela Jensen, said, "We're finding some pretty good deals. Jeans at Gap were good, and when you're buying for twins it's a good bargain."

**Back to School deals**
• *Payless Shoes*: Buy One Get One Half Off sale. Additional 20% off with discount code at []( Free shipping to local store. • *Children's Place*: Annual summer sale; many items for $3.99 or less. Additional 15% off with discount code at []( $5 flat shipping rate. • *Fashion Bug*: $10 off coupon on $25 online purchase at []( • *Target*: Coupon for 10% off online purchase at [](
Coss said he's been hitting the discount stores, and many families say they'll be recycling items. "It's one of those things where we've stocked up in years past. We're using what we've stocked up in previous years. We're kind of doing things that way, this time around," Wensel said.

Jensen told us, "We kept the backpacks from last year, so we're recycling those. Anything that's paper or notebooks that are still in good shape, we keep those also."

Sales and coupons can be a big incentive for shoppers, especially now. Parents say they are finding some deals at stores and online. [CLICK HERE to see some of those deals]


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Courtney Orton


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