Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Frugal the fashion for back-to-school

October 7, 2010

BTS

By Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Once upon a time, back-to-school shopping lists included splurges like cool new mobile phones, the latest laptop computers and even PlayStation video game consoles. Not anymore.

September’s sales results were somewhat better than expected but showed that frugal is still in fashion in U.S. school yards. Not only were back-to-school purchases made a bit later, many were necessities plucked from discount racks. 

So what IS selling? Woven shirts, fleece and knit pants drove sales at Abercrombie & Fitch.  Zumiez saw good demand for its bundled promotions, while denims and sweaters drove sales at American Eagle Outfitters.

Abercrombie and Wet Seal both saw sales weaken after opening school bells rang – suggesting that this month’s numbers could be a one-off show of strength.

“Business became more challenging at Wet Seal after the second week of the month, once peak back-to-school business had passed,” Wet Seal CEO Ed Thomas said.

“It was a back-to-school buying bubble,” KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Ed Yruma said, and most others warned shoppers may just cut back on spending before the holiday season hits.

 (Photo: Reuters)

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