Parents and students are starting their back-to-school shopping earlier this year -- but they might end up spending less.Consumers are reportedly getting a head start on their back-to-school shopping this year. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says more families have already completed their school shopping for this year, compared to 2009, as they try and take advantage of discounts.

"It's good to see consumers responding to back-to-school sales and promotions," NRF chief executive Matthew Shay said in a press release. "Back-to-school will be the first test for retailers and the economy as we plan for the holiday season."

But even though shoppers are heading to the stores earlier, they may be spending less. There are different schools of thought about how the season is actually going for retailers.

Sales Will Go Up...Or Down

According to a special report from the marketing research firm IBISWorld, back-to-school spending is expected to drop 0.2% to $19.56 billion this year. But that projection conflicts with predictions from the International Council of Shopping Centers, which forecast that sales from mid-July through mid-September would rise 5.4%, despite the U.S. retail industry's downward trend for the past two years. And the NRF is also expecting a rise in spending for school and college.

One analyst says the differences of opinion are not surprising, especially since consumers are skittish, weary and lacking in confidence as they gear up for this school year. "There's a lot of things going on in the economy that are fairly negative and concerning to them," says Alexandra Hutto, assistant professor of marketing at Metropolitan State College of Denver. "We've got tight credit, we have this jobless recovery, unemployment at a high level...we're seeing an increase in unemployment again. There's not a lot of stability there.

Hutto says parents are being judicious when it comes to school supplies and notes that clothing sales are suffering too, as parents purchase fewer new school outfits. While kids are always outgrowing clothing and parents may have to cave in to the latest fashion trend, "they'll maybe spring for those and make do with most of the hoodies and T-shirts they had [last year] and be very selective about what purchases they do make," she says. "And they're being very conscientious about checking the sales fliers, surfing the net, looking for websites that will direct them to sales.

Internet Shopping Remains Popular

While sales elsewhere remain shaky, back-to-school sales have helped push Internet retail revenue up slightly. College-age kids in particular are very savvy when it comes to shopping via the Web. "The kids that are in college now were born with computers in their hands," Hutto says. "They're used to using apps, smart phones, PDAs, the whole gamut. They're very facile with their technologies, they know how to use the Internet to its full advantage, so they're surfing the Web to get the best prices, the best deals."

There's a "digital divide" between generations, when it comes to using the Internet for back-to-school shopping. "The Boomers are definitely more comfortable with brick and mortar [stores]," Hutto notes, "the Millenials are more comfortable with the Internet, and then Gen-X'ers straddle the two worlds. The Boomers certainly dabble with the Internet; they're getting more adept at it but they're not as fast as their children are."

Many college students are saving substantially by buying their textbooks online too. But Internet shopping can also have disadvantages, such as a longer wait as books are shipped. "You've got kids saying, 'Can you wait till I get the textbook [online]?'" Hutto says. "I actually had a student this summer who jeopardized his grade. His book came the night before the test, and he kind of blew the test. He saved two weeks of reading for the night before. So there are consequences."

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Robert & Lisa

In the long run, growing government means more poverty and a lower standard of living for all. Governments don't produce products and services that improve peoples lives. Government officials are like parasites which unless held in check will kill the host aminal that they feed from, leaving all to die.

August 27 2010 at 9:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

As a teacher, I can tell you that they will not make the grade. Just gooogle CASH-TEACHER Click on the very first link and you are there!!! Then you will find the ways to cash in. Go to the PENNY STOCKS section to see things that the corporate fat cats don't want us to know. You want to see how the rich do it...GO THERE!

August 26 2010 at 11:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I just wanna wish all you future college students good luck in college. My teacher failed all those whom she disliked according to one source close to me. I wasa one of those she apparently disliked. It cost me 5 negitive credits in 2002. So I was declared not in good standing. As a result even though I got an A in Psychology, I was denied federal student loan money. I couldn't afford to fund my last 2 classes to complette my first year of college. As a result My furtherance of my education consist of reading Do-It-Yourself building building books. If I have the money, I'll buy (probably)n some psych books at Amaszon.Com, Used, and maybe apply for "Life Long Learning Credits, by taking tests. But we all have our tough times. Just one thing If you've gotta take anything take stuff your good at.

August 26 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As long as the school district and the county have the say in how much my property is worth, so they can tax me off of it, and have the say in the percentage of tax from the total of their figure of what my property is worth, going up and up over the decades, I refuse to buy anything but paper, writing instruments, and crayons. They can buy everything else because they can assess for it whatever they want and set the basis for that assessment. Until me the taxpayer sets the basic value of my property and I state what percent my tax will be for the schools, I refuse to buy anything else for the kids. Besides it has become so complicated, each child has a different list from each different teacher, I would end up buying over 200 items. Sorry. I don't have that kind of money because my property and assessment taxes are too high already.

August 26 2010 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You "anal"yst are stretching looking for bad news.....give us a break!!!!!

August 26 2010 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


August 26 2010 at 3:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I've never had a problem getting my books online. I buy them on amazon three weeks before class starts and get them by the first day. I've never used the bookstore to get books unless it was for an original lab book made by someone within the school. People aren't cautious about buying; they just don't have the extra cash. We're all struggling to make the monthly payments and rarely have anything left over. It looks like Americans are finally seeing that they need to live within their means. Too many people have run themselves into debt for fancy cars and houses just to make themselves appear well to do among all the neighbors.

August 26 2010 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Other than the basic school needs, clothing, school supplies, etc., the schools need to spend the taxpayer money they receive for all the other items they need, toilet paper, soap, papertowels, school room supplies should not be paid for by the parents, most are already paying inflated taxes to send their kids to school, cut the administrators pay, get rid of the duplicate workforce that does very little, cut the labor costs at the schools and run it like a business, funding thru taxes is a waste of money and the education these kids receive reflect the poor education they receive, many graduate, can't fill out a work application, can't read, comprehend, or do simple math, teach the basics and help these kids out, the blame is on the education system and the parents who expect schools to do it all, they are not getting the job done and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process, what a shame.

August 26 2010 at 12:24 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply