Savvy shoppers react to economic turmoil

August 12, 2011 2:22:31 PM PDT
The uncertain economy is changing how some people shop, how often they shop, and where they shop.

The back to school shopping season is in full swing, and retailers are preparing for a busy buying season. They are also preparing to meet savvier customers.

Back-to-school sales started early in the season at Target.

"As Chicago Public Schools started the school year a little earlier this year, so we've seen an earlier crowd than anticipated," said Target's Michael Moore.

Some parents are shopping more frugally this year.

"We're not buying new backpacks or lunchboxes this year," said Christy Bauhs. "They're going to use either last year's or the year before, and they don't seem to mind," said Christy Bauhs.

"The list keeps getting bigger, not smaller, so it's hard," said Jessie Aquino.

Ayanna Otis will have a first-grader in private school, and on a part-time salary, she's looking for bargains.

"I'm definitely on a budget now, and I definitely just can't spend what I want to spend, and I just try not to buy anything for me," said Otis.

Andrea Alter is back to work after a layoff, but she is continuing her savvy shopping technique.

"Big stores like this one that we're at have good deals at this time of year, so I will stock on stuff like crayons and glue so I don't have to buy it for the rest of the year," said Alter.

Matthew Smith of Leo J. Shapiro & Assoc., who specializes in consumer behavior research, says consumers have disconnected from the volatile economic news and are simply trying to address immediate family needs without going overboard.

"They're not willing to overspend, and they know they can get it at other places," said Smith.

One place with booming business so far this season: Second Child. The children's clothing consignment store has seen a 40 percent increase in sales so far this season.

"Even if things have gotten better for some people, and I have customers I've seen whose husbands who have been out of work and back to work, and they still continue to shop here, because it just makes more sense," said Amy Helgren of Second Child.

At second child, not only are they seeing more shoppers, but more consigners.

Clients who would have not considering selling used items are now seeing the value in those items, and they can get cash or credit at the shop for their sold clothing.

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