Bill Rubin

Bill Rubin

The recent zooooom heard throughout the St. Croix Valley was not Mr. Jeff Bezos’ rocket returning from the edge of space.

It’s believed the zooooom was that of time slipping by, minute by minute, day by day.

And soon, school districts and college campuses will spring to life, starting with teacher and professor prep, orientation, class schedules, bus routes, and maybe a bad case of first day jitters.

Parents may say the start of school can’t come soon enough. Opinions from students differ, however.

The lyrics to “Winter Wonderland,” as sung by Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang, could easily transition to “School bells ring, are you listening? .. A beautiful sight, we’re (not) happy tonight. Walkin’ in a new building for the first time (wonderland).” It is believed the school bell and first generation hallway ringer was replaced by gentle chimes long, long ago.

Big business

Back-to-school shopping, even during a return to normalcy, is big business. In fact, the National Retail Federation tracks spending trends and says it will reach record amounts in 2021. It could hit $37.1 billion, way up from $33.9 billion spent last year. Back-to-college spending could reach a record $71 billion, up from $67.7 billion in 2020.

Families with children in elementary through high school will spend an average of $848.90 on school items, or $59 more than last year, according to NRF. College students and families plan to spend an average of $1,200.32 on their items. This is an increase of $141 last year, and over half of the increase, around $80, is attributable to electronics and dorm or apartment furnishings.

Without using a calculator, take the NRF’s spending for two K-12 students plus one incoming college freshman and the total is a scary number for any household.

Shopping habits or patterns have changed over the years. Where did the Sears catalog go? 

NRF says the most popular destinations for K-12 shoppers are:

online (48%)

  • department stores (48%)

  • discount stores (44%)

  • clothing stores (41%)

  • office supplies stores (27%)

  • electronics stores (27%). 

The top destinations for college shoppers include:

  • online (43%)

  • department stores (33%)

  • discount stores (30%)

  • office supplies stores (29%)

  • college bookstores (28%). 

Side note: What about thrift stores as a way to ensure the college grunge look?

CNBC recently reported 16 states will offer some kind of sales tax holiday on school supplies. Neither Wisconsin nor Minnesota is among them. And the trip to Iowa may be cost prohibitive.

Families in the St. Croix Valley are savvy on several fronts, including shopping. Back-to-school deals will emerge. But don’t wait too long. Another news outlet reported on product shortages and supply chain problems which could make it hard to find essentials, however essentials are defined. 

Please remember the main street shops and restaurants in case an extra special purchase or lunch is part of the itinerary. Don’t tell the NRF. It’ll skew their survey. 

Happy shopping in the St. Croix Valley. “La-La-La. School bells ring.”

 

Bill Rubin is the St. Croix Economic Development Center executive director.

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