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Sandy Blanco of Montevideo, left, looks over boys’ jeans at the JC Penney store at the Kandi Mall in Willmar. Blanco was shopping with her daughter Valeria, 5, for back-to-school clothes for the family. She was assisted by store employee Dayana Dominguez, right. (Tribune photo by Linda Vanderwerf)

Back-to-school shoppers boost sales

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West Central Tribune
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Back-to-school shoppers boost sales
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — Ask retailers what families are shopping for before school starts, and the first answer is the same: Jeans. Following close behind denim would be boots.


The season that traditionally gives retailers a boost going into the fall is in full swing and likely to last another couple weeks.

The National Retail Federation has estimated that back-to-school shopping will increase about 5 percent over last year, with parents spending an average of $670 per child, including clothes, shoes, school supplies and electronics. The average for elementary students is about $100 less than for students in middle school or high school.

According to a report from the federation, school shopping represents the second biggest spending season of the year. Shoppers are expected to spend about $75 billion in school shopping. While that is dwarfed by the $602 billion spent last year on Christmas and other winter holidays, it surpasses other holidays like Mother’s Day at $20 billion, Valentine’s Day at $17 billion and Easter at $16 billion.

Shopping this year is expected to increase about 5 percent over 2013, which was a down year for school shopping. Particularly after cutting back a year ago, it’s expected that parents will have to replace worn or outgrown shoes and clothing this year.

Managers at area stores said they have been busy in August and expect that to keep on into early September.

“Denim is still the destination,” said Cheryl Randleman, manager at the JC Penney story in the Kandi Mall in Willmar.

Skinny jeans, jeans in fashion colors, leggings that look like denim called jeggings — you name it.

Along with the jeans for boys and girls, big and little, come other comfortable clothes.

Leggings are a big trend this year, for little girls and big ones. Leggings worn with flowing tops are big for teen girls, and novelty T-shirts are popular with boys.

For little girls, “anything with embellishment or bling” draws their attention, Randleman said.

Randleman said many families are taking advantage of the store’s sales, and the store has been busy all through August. A special attraction has been the store salon’s offer of $10 haircuts for kids this month.

The fall wardrobe in many shops in the mall is colorful, too.

“We have some brights for fall, which you don’t always see,” Randleman said. The bright colors can be seen in every department from small children to adults. The men’s department had a collection of dress shirts in hot pink, bright blue and purple.

Cardigans have been popular, too, at the Vanity store in the mall, along with clothing and jewelry with Aztec prints.

Manager Jenna Brethorst said eggplant and turquoise seem to be the hottest new colors. “People are in love with those colors.”

“Boots are so popular,” she said. “They’re one of those things you can wear with so much.”

Other popular items are patterned leggings, “chunky, big, statement” jewelry pieces and turquoise jewelry.

Rue 21 at the mall has been making moms and dads happy with its sales, including the promotion to buy one pair of jeans and get a second for $1, said manager Carissa Schneider.

Schneider and her employees said jeans and sweatshirts have been the big sellers, and she expects strong sales to continue over the Labor Day weekend.

Both kneehigh and combat boots are popular, Schneider said.

Other trends she’s seen: Skater shoes with the white rubber soles have been in demand. Long dangly necklaces are big with younger teens, while older girls seem to like big chunky necklaces. Flowered headbands have been selling quickly. The company’s exclusive line of inexpensive fragrances is big with kids and with their parents.

Much shopping is done before school starts, but the National Retail Federation also predicts that stores will continue to be busy into September.

High school students are more likely to wait a bit and watch for fashion trends at school. Then they’ll head back to the malls with new ideas.

Millennials, the high school students born in the late 1990s, won’t just be dragging their parents back out to shop. They are expected to spend $913 million of their own money nationwide this year.

More and more people are going online to shop or check prices, according to the federation.

In a survey, 40 percent said they would shop online at least once before school starts.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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