Kids all over the country are in mourning, having seen “back to school” signs and adverts since early July. Today’s circulars included deals like 1-cent manual pencil sharpeners (Office Depot), 25-cent crayons (Kmart), free-after-rebate yellow highlighters (Staples) and $9 backpacks (Target).
It’s not time to buy yet, though.
Retailers are pushing these “sales” earlier and earlier because there’s gold in them thar pencil cases: The National Retail Federation estimates that $68 billion will be spent on back-to-school shopping, including back-to-college sales. (This includes clothing as well as school supplies.)
Early sales mean early buying, especially from folks who want to get it all done now so they can kick back for the rest of the summer. But the smart money, as it were, is to wait until the real deals start showing up at the end of July.
In past years I’ve seen some astonishing prices, such as 10 pencils for a penny and packages of notebook paper for a nickel. If you don’t get a Sunday newspaper then check the online ads for stores like Staples, Office Max, Office Depot, Target, Walgreens and Kmart.
The first three tend to have the really super loss leaders. Keep in mind that:
- You should get there on Sunday if possible, since these deals are generally “while supplies last.” If the ad doesn’t say that, ask for a rain check.
- Small- or home-business owners can find a lot of office supplies among the backpacks and markers. How much did you pay for your last 10-pack of pens? I’ve seen them go for a quarter or less at these sales.
- If you use your printer a lot, watch for loss leaders on paper. This week at Staples, for example, you can get a ream of paper for 50 cents after rebate (which you can file online).
- If you must do goodie bags for your kid’s birthday party, watch for hot deals on crayons, markers and those mini-composition notebooks.
About those back-to-college sales: The NRF says that the average per-family expenditure will be about $800, down slightly from last year.
That surprised me. Last week I was in Bed Bath & Beyond to use up remaining credit on a gift card I got for Christmas. Everywhere I looked was college, college, college – from wastebaskets to clocks to extra-long dorm sheets.
That last gave me an idea for a sure-fire moneymaker: Marketing extra-long “dorm condoms” to frat boys. You just couldn’t miss.