We're now entering peak back-to-school shopping season, but this is turning out to be a school shopping season like none ever before.
In the year of the pandemic, many parents are holding off, unsure their children will even set foot in their schools this fall.
In normal years, Target, Staples and other stores would be running big back-to-school campaigns by now. Stores would be stocked with gym shoes, white shirts, notebooks, and Clorox wipes. (Remember Clorox wipes? Have you seen any for sale in four months?)
But these are not normal times.
With many schools already planning for online learning this September, there's no need to buy lots of new school clothing or even backpacks.
Other schools are holding off announcing any plans, which means teachers cannot come up with lists of required items yet.
Why shopping could still be strong
It turns out learning at home may actually boost sales figures this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
It says parents will be buying more laptop PCs and iPads then ever before. With many students learning at home even just part time, demand is soaring for new laptops to improve the Zoom call experience.
The result is that the retail group predicts shopping could be 3 to 5 percent higher than last year, with more parents than ever dropping $300 to $1,000 on a computer. Two kids? Double it.
But from the doesn't that stink file, the bad news is for brick-and-mortar retailers.
The Retail Federation says online sales will soar this school year, as families avoid going to the mall.
45 percent of shoppers say they plan to do more online shopping this year than they did a year ago, which was already a strong year for online sales.
That means if you like to browse the mall for school shopping, you'll find fewer stores open and much less merchandise on those store shelves when you get there.
Shoppers report many shoe stores have just half their normal amount of merchandise on display.
As a result, this shopping season is unlikely to rescue malls already deep in financial trouble.
No more hands-on testing Macs and iPads
Need a trip to the Apple store? 30 percent of them are closed, as Apple re-closes stores in areas in the growing red zones.
Meantime, many of the open ones won't let you play with the displays anymore, or do a hands-on test of MacBooks on the big open tables. You will need to ask an associate for help in those stores. CLICK HERE to find out if your store is open.
One bright spot in all of this: If stores find school clothing and merchandise not moving well by the middle of August, expect huge markdowns later in the month, so you don't waste your money.
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