Back to School Sales Down as Parents Buy Less

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Back to school jitters are nothing new for kids, but this year, it is the retailers who are nervous, and for good reason.

Back to school sales are down 7.7 percent, with the average family spending $46 less than last year.

That means kids like Arianna Matter are likely having a lot less fun planning for the sixth grade.

The Matter family gave CBN News a little math lesson to show what they would have bought last year. Comparing two shopping carts tells the story.

Last year, they would have walked out with $120 worth of supplies. This year, they are buying just $27 worth-- a savings of $93.

"I don't want to spend more than $20 on a backpack," Arianna's mother, Mary Jane, said while shopping with her daughter. "We can do some shopping next time after the next payday."

Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation said parents have changed.

"We're seeing parents be much more practical," she explained.  "We're seeing them taking price into account and we're seeing them make bare bones decisions."

Like the Matters, back to school means back to basics for many families this year.  Arianna and her mother picked up just a backpack, pencil case, glue sticks and generic binders.

What would they have bought on a bigger budget? Another backpack, flashier supplies, and the biggest item, new clothes - something they won't need to worry about this year.

In perhaps the biggest sign of these economic times, the parents at Arianna's school voted for school uniforms.

And Mary Jane Matters knows why.

"It's a whole lot cheaper," she said.

*Originally published August 19, 2009

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