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August 13, 2012 Retail Notebook

Shoppers still await back-to-school sales

When it comes back to school, there are three important pieces of information to keep in mind: Buyers in the Northeast wait as long as possible but spend more; kids are doing more shopping this year; and, maybe not so surprisingly, the best ways to reach parents and their children differs.

Those are among the findings of Deloitte's annual “Back-to-School” survey. Joseph Welter, Deloitte's tri-state retail leader, focused on Northeast findings of the national survey that reached out to 1,134 parents of school-age children in grades K — 12 from July 5 to 12.

Back-to-school shopping is important to retailers because it hits during the slower summer month of August and pumps a lot of money into the coffers. Welter said annual spending nationwide is about $21 billion.

“It seems like parents in the Northeast are waiting for sales to hit and spending [their money] as wisely as they can. They will use every tool,” Welter said.

The majority of the country (52 percent) will have finished its back-to-school shopping now while Northeast parents will finish theirs this week and next. “They're waiting for the real deals,” Welter said.

The survey shows that smartphones and online channels will guide bargain-hungry shoppers again this year. More than 4 in 10 (43 percent) smartphone owners indicate they use their devices at least half the time for back-to-school shopping, according to a Deloitte news release.

Price checking tops shoppers' lists, cited by 62 percent of smartphone owners who will use their devices for back-to-school shopping. Nearly half (45 percent) of those smartphone shoppers will download discounts, coupons and sale information.

Northeast parents, in line with parents around the country, will spend about $600 on back-to-school supplies, clothing and technology. Women typically spend more (about $700 on average) while men spend less (about $500). About 88 percent of all parents plan to spend the same or more this year, according to the survey.

One area parents won't be opening their wallets up for as much is computers and electronics. “They're not doing the impulse buying,” Welter said, but their children might be. According to the survey, about 38 percent of the respondents' children will spend more than $200 of their own money this year — up more than double from 16 percent in 2011.

“It's hard to tell what's driving them,” Welter said, but it could be that younger shoppers are more optimistic about the economy. Also, they may be buying the technology that parents deem not necessary in this cycle of back-to-school shopping.

Where parents shop differs in the Northeast than it does around the country, Welter observed. “They're more inclined to go to office supply stores,” he said, while in other parts of the nation parents are turning more and more to “dollar” stores to purchase the basics, Welter said. Northeast parents turn to the office supply stores because of their “proliferation” and higher real estate costs make it more difficult for dollar stores to get a strong foothold in this part of the country.

Welter expects that Northeast parents will eventually catch up with their counterparts and shop more frequently at dollar stores. “It really has settled in over the last three years that people have to be real value shoppers,” he added.

Retailers also need to pay attention to how they get information out to potential back-to-school shoppers. Children do influence parents' decisions.

The top five sources of information for parents are:


Family members


Other friends

Online (retailer blogs, websites)

Children find their information from different sources with newspapers not even being a factor in their decision making:

Other friends


Family members

Social media

Online (retailer blogs, websites)

Noodles at Bishop’s Corner

There's another new restaurant coming to West Hartford. However, it's not coming to West Hartford Center or Blue Back Square. It's headed a bit north, up North Main Street to Bishop's Corner, which has been undergoing a significant retail renaissance in the past couple years.

The Denver, Colo., franchise called Noodles & Company is heading east to open its first location in Connecticut at the renovated Marshall's Plaza at the corner of North Main and Albany Avenue. Robert Barton, the local franchisee, says this store could be the first of several in Greater Hartford.

Noodles & Company will serve lunch and dinner, with a heavy emphasis on dinner. The menu features fresh sauté with noodle dishes highlighting American, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisines. Meals are expected to cost less than $8.

Noodles & Co. has been identified as Technomic's 10 fastest growing restaurant chains with annual sales of more than $200 million. In 2011, it had annual sales of $300 million, which represented 14.9 percent growth from 2010.

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