Backpacks, notebooks and big yellow school buses packed with kids in new clothes seem far in the future as warm summer weather continues and August is just arriving.
But for retail stores, back-to-school season is in full swing and summer is quickly coming to a close. And statistics show that many consumers are already preparing for the new school year.
“I have seen a lot of moms who are [shopping] now,” said Leah Palmer, a spokeswoman for Rotterdam Square and Wilton Mall. “They do not want to wait until the last minute for anything.”
April Kearns, of Colonie, had three kids in tow Tuesday at Clifton Park Center. She said they usually begin back-to-school shopping now, if not earlier.
According to National Retail Federation, Kearns is not alone. About 24 percent of families with children in kindergarten through grade 12 will begin shopping at least two months before the start of the new school year. Last year, 22.3 percent of families began shopping two months before, the highest percentage in the 11-year history of the survey.
Back-to-college shopping also makes up a great deal of spending at this time of year.
“There is kind of two separate markets,” Palmer explained. “There is definitely the college-age, dorm-room students who are starting now — and who have probably already started. And that sort of rolls right into the high-school and elementary-school kids.”
According to the NRF, three in 10 college students and their parents say they begin shopping at least two months before school starts, also the highest number in the survey’s history. Less than 20 percent of college students will wait to shop until one or two weeks before school.
According to Palmer, back-to-school and back-to-college shopping are a huge market for retailers.
“We consider it our second-strongest shopping season, after the holiday season, with Christmas,” she said.
Retailers are already seeing consumers shopping earlier and spending more this year.
“Definitely a lot more confidence this year,” Palmer said. “Generally, this year, people are spending more.”
Kearns said the school her children attend allows parents to order the majority of school supplies online through the school.
“We order the entire school supply package,” she said.
But despite the extra savings and convenience of buying through the school, she said they still spend a lot of money on back-to-school shopping.
“Too much,” Kearns said, laughing.
According to the NRF, back-to-school and back-to-college spending combined will reach a whopping $72.5 billion this year.
Melody Mosley, of Troy, has a toddler who is not yet school-age. But Mosley said she still spends a great deal of money at this time of year on back-to-day-care shopping for everything from clothes to shoes and even extra food.
“I would say maybe about $400,” she said.
Mosley said she begins shopping in early August to take advantage of back-to-school sales.
Old Navy at Wilton Mall begins its back-to-school sales Aug. 1, and those sales run through Labor Day weekend.
“School starts early in September, so we like to give the parents and the students enough time to shop and to see what’s out there,” store manager Lisa Morano said.
Most of the stores at Wilton Mall are finishing up their summer sales and — if they have not already — are quickly transitioning into back-to-school advertising.
“It is going to be a healthy back-to-school season,” Palmer said. “ And for us, we are looking forward to it.”