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Back-To-School Period Starting Earlier

Like Halloween sales in summer, and Christmas come-ons in the fall, the back-to-school selling season is starting earlier than ever.

In an attempt to secure their piece of shoppers’ federal stimulus checks, retailers began mounting their back-to-school promotions within weeks of last semester’s closing bell, prompting at least one consumer group to complain that children are being robbed of their summer vacations.

Regardless, shoppers are responding in kind to the siren song of sales, stretching the traditional July-through-September back-to-school period in the process.

According to a survey of 1,000 households commissioned by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and UBC, 78.5 percent of respondents expected to complete their shopping between July and August, compared to 72.7 percent last year and 69.5 percent in 2006.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), in its own survey of 8,361 consumers conducted by BIGresearch, also found that more people are shopping earlier for their back-to-school supplies. The majority of parents (46.4 percent) said they were starting their back-to-school shopping at least three weeks before school (vs. 45.2 percent in 2007), while the majority of college kids (29.8 percent) also said they will be hitting the stores at least three weeks before the start of the fall semester (vs. 28.6 percent last year).

What’s more, 17.4 percent of parents and 21.5 percent of college students said they would begin shopping at least two months before the start of school.

“Consumers are planning to shop for back-to-school items earlier this year than we have seen in the last couple of years,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and research director for ICSC. “Although the 2008 season is off to a faster start, the survey also suggests that the consumer will be looking for value.”

What’s On Sale*