Economic back-to-school woes?

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When I was younger, the end of August signified back-to-school shopping. I got my kicks buying school supplies. I loved it. I’d go to the store with my parents, list-in-hand, and excitedly rush around putting sparkly notebooks and colored pencils into the cart.

However, with the slumping economy, kids and parents may feel a pinch come the first day of school. I recently read this article on MediaPost, noting that a study from the NPD Group found that consumers say they’re planning on spending less during back-to-school shopping. The stores being affected most are clothing and shoe stores.

The percentage of people shopping at discount stores dropped from 84% to 81% and those going to apparel store dropped from 20% to 16%. Additionally, only 22% will visit shoe stores, going down from 27% last year. In total, 35% of those surveyed said they would spend less this year than last. Only 25% made the same statement a year ago.

All that being said, some retailers, like Kohl’s, are finding new ways to reach teens and tweens. The company launched a campaign this month using Stardolls.com. The site allows kids to create their own avatars and dress them in virtual Kohl’s clothing. They can buy the clothing using Stardollars, which they acquire by signing up for a monthly membership (around $5-$6). According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Kohl’s hopes online interaction will lead to in-store sales. The avatar trend has also been utilized by K-Swiss, Eberjey and Sears.

As a quasi-hip and slightly tech-savvy Gen-Y-er, truthfully, while writing this post I said to myself, “What is with kids today spending real money on a virtual pair of shoes?” But then again, I’m sure my mother questioned my reasoning for wanting a pair of L.A. Gear sneakers that lit up with each step.
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