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: ‘I’m thankful for the dollar store’: Parents are stressed out shopping for clothes during back-to-school season, and struggle with record-high inflation

India Wayman, 40, a stay-at-home mom in North Syracuse, N.Y. says she’s never felt this much stress buying back-to-school clothes for her daughter.

“I have to go through too many avenues to find affordable clothes, way too many avenues,” she said. 

In prior years, Wayman shopped off-season and in the clearance section. But this year, she said, even the clearance section was out of reach.

One pair of jeans cost $40, Wayman said. “My daughter is 11, and she’s rapidly growing. She kind of skipped over the junior phase.”

Children will be headed back to school in a matter of weeks in some places, and many parents say they’re stressed about the amount they’ll have to spend as record-high inflation has pushed prices up. 

“Parents say they plan to spend an average of $661 on back-to-school shopping this year, 8% more than the 2021 season.”

— Deloitte consumer survey

Parents say they plan to spend an average of $661 on back-to-school shopping, 8% more than the 2021 season, according to a recent survey by Deloitte. The consulting and tax group estimated that the related market will reach $34.4 billion this year, up 24% since 2019. 

The rising cost of living is already eating into the budget parents set aside for back-to-school shopping. The cost of consumer goods had increased 9.1% in June compared to last year, a 41-year-high.

Increased prices for food and gas have left little room in consumers’ wallets for many back-to-school items. Global disruptions pushed up the price of groceries by 12.2% in June compared to last year; the average price of gas was at $4.14 per gallon on Thursday, up from $3.18 a year ago. 

Parents are experiencing sticker shock. A majority (68%) said they had noticed higher prices on school items, citing school supplies and clothing, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Retail Federation.

Another wrench in the works: Many Americans have been dipping into their savings to pay their bills, and the personal savings rate has hit one of the lowest levels in decades, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Scouting for deals (and the latest fashion)

Children need clothes after studying remotely on-and-off during the pandemic. 

“We saw fatigue in technology primarily because families bought heavily in the category the past two years when schooling was virtual or hybrid,” Lupine Skelly, one of the authors of the Deloitte survey, wrote in an email to MarketWatch. 

She said a “strong replenishment cycle” means parents are spending more on clothes, and more money per child.

Parents are looking for ways to save money by shopping early and finding discounts, as well as buying alternative brands. Traditional sales events such as Amazon’s Prime Day sale will play an even bigger role this year for parents securing school supplies, according to the National Retail Federation.

An Amazon

spokesperson said many of its customers got their back-to-school shopping early this year by taking advantage of some “deep discounts” during Prime Day. 

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