By Dennis Seid
Second only to the lucrative Christmas shopping season, back-to-school shopping generates its fair share of business.
And it’s a big share.
This year, shoppers are expected to spend $26.7 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. And that figure is down more than 7 percent from last year.
But with the opening of school being pushed back two weeks next year, retailers think it’s an opportunity for them to cash in.
“I think parents have always anticipated back-to-school shopping and the first day of school, and because of that, it means a longer shopping season for them,” said Jeff Snyder, general manager at The Mall at Barnes Crossing. “The season normally starts around mid-July and tapers off around the second week of August.”
Most major retailers begin their BTS sales around mid-July and continue them through Labor Day in many cases. Schools in northern states start later than many in the South, and national retailers stretch out their back-to-school deals.
Shoppers in Mississippi next year will have even more time to take advantage of those sales.
Jack Reed Jr., the president of Reed’s department store, said he was “delighted” that schools will start later.
“I think it’s going to be better all around for everybody,” he said, noting that schools starting closer to or even after Labor Day was long a tradition.
“I’m a fan of those days,” he said. “It’s more typical of what people expect.”
In addition, potentially cooler weather also benefits retailers because it’s typically the time when sweaters, jackets, coats and winter gear are hitting the racks.
Shopping in 95-degree heat with 90 percent humidity doesn’t entice anyone to buy a winter coat.
Snyder isn’t sure how much shopping patterns will be altered, but thinks it will provide a boost. However, he thinks a change in the tax-free holiday would have bigger impact.
“I think it should include more items like school supplies, laptops, etc,” he said.
Mississippi’s tax-free holiday covers mainly shoes and clothing priced under $100. Other surrounding states have a more expansive tax-free list, including those suggested by Snyder.
Reed, too, thinks a more inclusive tax-free list would benefit shoppers and retailers alike.