Friday, June 29, 2012

School Supplies Anyone?

Must be my week for posting about retailers.  I had an $8 coupon for Staples that was expiring tomorrow so I decided to go there yesterday.  As I walked into the store I was greeted by huge signs hung across all the ends of the rows, with displays underneath them.  What did those signs say?  SCHOOL SUPPLIES HERE.

I admit I was really puzzled by these signs.  As both a parent who once had children attending school and as an educator, I am fully aware that schools--public and private--ended about a week ago.  I'm also aware that schools won't be starting again until Labor Day--September.  I also remember that, even though I like to shop ahead, I didn't buy school supplies more than two months in advance. So what was the purpose of advertising and pushing those supplies right now?

This puzzled me as I was going down the aisles of the store and the only possible reason I could come up with at first was that this must be aimed at those going to summer school.  Further thought brought to mind that this couldn't be the answer.  There simply aren't enough students in summer school to warrant such a large campaign.  In addition, I have never, ever seen any store advertise school supplies for summer school, so why would they be starting this now?

I got busy with other things so I put my questions about this out of mind.  Last night though I started wondering about it again.  And then I think I may have found one possible answer--getting a jump on the competitors.

Lots of places besides stationary supply stores that sell school supplies.  Usually those sales start occuring at the beginning of August.  Many parents take advantage of the fact that these multiple retailers all offer sales on different items, and they go from store to store taking advantage of the sales.  Staples does not have the reputation of being a lowest-prices-in-town retailer, and it gets plenty of competition from other retailers.  Or at least it does when all retailers are pushing school supplies.  Right now Staples is the only one in our area who is actually advertising school supplies and has the full range of those supplies. 

So, the question is, will parents start buying supplies now?  Will Staples' jump on the competition work?  Maybe yes and maybe no.  For those who comparison shop, it might not work.  For those who have become accustomed to shopping way in advance (keep in mind that many retailers now start advertising the fall and winter holidays immediately after Labor Day) it might.

As for me (and I imagine for many other parents out there) I am not going to think about school until waaaay later in the summer, no matter what a retailer might be doing now.  Getting ready for school is not on my to-do list for right now.  For me this is akin to a Jewish bookstore's pushing supplies for Sukkot in June.  Thanks, but no thanks.


Anonymous said...

I work at a private school and we have already posted the school supply lists for the fall. I don't know how many parents actually shop now, but if there are sales and you know what your kids will need, why not?

abba's rantings said...

have you ever been in staples the week before school starts? lines are out the door. unless you like standing on lines, it makes sense to buy now if you what your kids need

tesyaa said...

I think it's a great idea to go shopping for school supplies. The last week before school starts is always hectic and the stores are packed. No, I haven't received any supply lists yet either, but if prices are low, it'd be a good time to restock basics like notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, erasers etc.

AztecQueen2000 said...

I'm a homeschool parent. We start up lessons on the first Monday in August (because we lose so much time during Tishrei.) Actually, I love buying all my kids' notebooks, pencils and crayons the first week of July. That way, when we start back to homeschooling, I have everything they need.

Reader said...

There is a general trend in retail to start the season early. Nowadays, you start seeing Christmas sales in October. I've noticed it in the frum world too, with Pesach starting in Shvat as opposed to after Purim. I'm not sure of the reason for these trends (I feel like Miami Al would know), but they're definitely the thing these days. So no, school supplies in July is not surprising in the least.

leahle said...

Convenience versus cost is an issue with this. Our Staples also has the school supplies for sale. That's 'for sale' not necessarily 'on sale.' Even with the few things they did have on sale, the prices seemed kind of high for what the item was. But if the other stores don't have their school merchadise out it's lots harder to compare any prices and see who has the best deal.

The convenience of buying early is one thing. But how much does that convenience cost? Don't knock the total cost of these things as being small. Outfitting 5 kids is not cheap. Comparing prices could save sometimes more than half of the cost.

Orthonomics said...

25 cent printer paper is the reason to shop early!