OPINION: The Art Of Back-To-School Shopping
It is ill-advised to shop for groceries while you’re hungry or extremely thirsty. But you’ve probably heard that one.
Likewise, it is inadvisable to mouth off to a police officer who has pulled you over for speeding when you’re still steaming about an argument you had elsewhere.
Here’s a new one I’m adding to this list: It is a very bad idea to take your 6-year-old son with you when you’re doing his “back-to-school” shopping – if he is in a cranky, contentious mood.
Shopping both “for and with” a misbehaving child is extremely ill-advised, but is especially so if you have limited time to shop and have put off your shopping until the very last minute.
This was what happened to my wife, Amy, and me this past Saturday when we drove through East Texas to find stores for our much-needed supplies.
You know the drill: Folders with brads and pockets. Map. Pencils. Markers. A ruler. Manilla paper. Post it notes. Graph paper. Scissors. Glue sticks. Highlighters. Pens. Pencils. Paper. Masking tape. Spiral notebook. Pencil sharpeners. And, of course, tissue.
I’m including a copy of my receipt with this column to show you how much we ended up spending.
In addition to Camden Lee, my wife and I took his brother, my 16-year-old stepson, Trent Woodall. Trent, at least, behaved. Except when he was getting frustrated with Camden.
Together, my wife and I had maybe $500 going into our shopping spree, but I didn’t think this trip would expend nearly all of that.
I mean, it was $500 and supplies for two kids – piece of cake, right? Tyler was the closest municipality to the East Texas home where I stay with my wife on weekends. The logic? Tyler has lots of stores. If you can’t find something at one store, you head to another.
However, Camden’s antics throughout the day drained us so much, we ended up shopping at one store — Target. We just didn’t have the energy to go elsewhere.
I could have been better prepared for this trip. That’s on me. I should have been prepared to shop, but I wasn’t.
For example, there was a National Retail Federation report about back-to-school shopping that I should have read and studied before, rather than after, our shopping expedition.
The NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics states that consumer confidence is RISING.
Additionally, there are more “young people” in school. This means back-to-college spending is expected to hit an all-time high this year while back-to-school spending is expected to see its second-highest spending level on record.
This report basically translates into this: more people on the road and more crowds in the stores.
It also means there is a good chance the items you need are not going to be there because a jillion other people got to the store before you.
The NRF report projected that total spending for school and college combined is going to reach reach $83.6 billion – a more than 10 percent increase from last year’s $75.8 billion.
Crowds. Crowds. Crowds. Traffic. Traffic.
“Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay stated in a news release. “With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year. As students head back to the classroom, retailers are prepared to meet their needs whether it’s for pencils and paper, shirts and pants or laptops and tablets.”
These crowds were so large they made me really regret putting off shopping until the very last minute, like many Americans did.
As I stated earlier, Camden was in a very bad mood. He wanted candy and toys. Not school supplies.
While we were energized at the start of our jaunt, it only took a few hours of Cambo acting up to drain my wife and I almost completely dry.
When we reached this “bone dry of energy” point, it might have been better for us to go take a nap and come back the next day or something. But, we didn’t.
No. We were so eager to be completely done with Cambo’s shopping that we pretty much dumped nearly $400 of our money into that one store.
Because so many people had been there ahead of us, many of the supplies we needed were depleted. We ended up “settling” for alternative items that “kinda-sorta” met the mark, rather than getting the exact item the teachers requested on the list.
Moral of story? Be prepared. Read my receipt. See what we bought.
Also, the National Retail Federation has some wonderful online studies and perspectives that might help discerning shoppers better understand the beast that is American shopping traffic.
You can reach the federation online at: www.nrf.com