What lies ahead for Back to School?

Nobody has a crystal ball, least of all Retail Wire panelists…but today we were invited to speculate on the upcoming Back to School retailing season:

The biggest question heading into BTS season is whether consumers will start to spend on discretionary purchases, not just necessities. The stores reporting comp sales for the past couple of months are showing “less bad” conditions, but that’s a long way from good. Back-to-school necessities may include new jeans and shoes for the kids, not just school supplies and so on…will customers be tempted to “trade up” on the denim or sneaker brands that they buy, or will they continue to cut corners? And — more importantly — will customers be in a self-purchase frame of mind a couple of months ago, if the signs of economic recovery continue to be mixed? One thing is for sure: Retailers will head into BTS with very lean inventories, since they probably put their plans in place at the very depths of the recession six months ago.

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