Back-to-school blitz

Brianna Sharp is a first-time back-to-school shopper, but she's jumping in with both feet.
Marie Havenga
Aug 30, 2014

Earlier this week, the soon-to-be kindergartner jumped up and down in her family's shopping cart, cradling a pink and black lunch tote at the Meijer store in Grand Haven Township.

“I want to go to school,” Brianna said with a big smile.

What could be causing all this unbridled excitement?

“I want to make friends,” the incoming Griffin Elementary School student squealed.

Brianna was shopping with her mom, grandmother and little brother, Michael. They had previously purchased a “horsey” shirt and Minnie Mouse outfit.

Brianna's grandmother, Michelle Pitre, estimates they'll spend less than $100 on clothing and supplies this year, well under the national family average of $669, according to the National Retail Federation.

The federation predicts a 5 percent back-to-school sales increase over 2013.

“I'm a thrifty shopper,” Pitre said. “There was a bit of sticker shock, but it was fun.”

As Brianna picked out a colorful backpack with the word “dream” on it, Grand Haven High School junior Brooke Nichols also perused the backpack racks. Nichols said she'll spend about $100 on maxi skirts, shorts and other back-to-school threads, and another $50 on supplies. She was planning to purchase 90 percent of her items before school starts, then return to pick up more clothes later.

Meijer spokesman Joe Hirschmugl said in a survey his store conducted earlier this summer, parents said they planned to spend about $150 per child.

But the big surprise is when. Hirschmugl said families have been shopping all summer for school supplies, versus the more traditional way of shopping once or twice shortly before the school bell rings for the first time.

“They have pocketbook considerations and are planning multiple trips, and keeping their eyes open for different sales at different retailers,” Hirschmugl said. “We've seen consistent business throughout the summer.”

Read the rest of this story — and what school fashions are hot, according to local retailers — in Saturday's Tribune print and e-edition.

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