While retailers of all stripes worry that the recession is curtailing the impact of the crucial back-to-school shopping season, one would think that purveyors of school uniforms would be insulated from the economic downturn.

Not true, says the St. Petersburg Times of Florida. Merchants interviewed say parents are increasingly making do with last year's uniforms, eeking as much wear out of them as possible before replacing them.

They're also not in any hurry to stock up; one shopkeeper quoted said he believed parents were waiting until the last minute to make their purchases. Others said parents weren't buying as much.

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending is down by 7.7% from last year for parents of kids from kindergarten through high school.

Owners of stores interviewed by the Times touted school uniforms as a cost-effective alternative, saying that a trip to the mall would run many times over what a week's worth of uniforms costs. Of course, these people are in the business of selling uniforms, so that tally doesn't take into account what a kid's going to be wearing on a Saturday playdate or out at the movies with the crew on a Friday night.

Parents, is it cheaper for your kids to wear uniforms to school, or does the cost of having to maintain two separate wardrobes -- especially during the growth-spurt years -- offset potential savings? Tell us what you think in the comments section. Or, if you have any tips for stretching your school uniform budget, share your secrets with your fellow readers!

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