Mid- to late July is prime shopping time.
You probably noticed sales on binders and glue sticks and calculators even before July 4th. Did you miss the boat on the sales?
Not at all, said Carrie Rocha of Pocketyourdollars.com. "Every year I hear that retailers start the back-to-school season earlier, but they've been doing that for years," she said. "There's no reason to start shopping in June."
That doesn't stop retailers from trying to lure shoppers in early anyway.
Coming off sluggish sales in the last quarter, retailers are hoping to lay claim to a share of the $70 billion that was spent on back-to-school and college merchandise last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Only Christmas spending exceeds the July and August school spending surge.
Parents plan to spread out their back-to-school purchases to distribute the cost over a longer period, according to a Pricegrabber survey. Erin Davies of Richfield scours the Dollar Spot at Target year round. The most expensive item on her kids' list, 3-ring binders, she usually picks up during an Office Max sale.
While many procrastinators believe they grab the steepest discounts as school is starting, Rocha stakes out the middle ground. The best bargains occur in mid to late July, she said. She checks prices of more than 30 items at nine national retailers, including Office Max, Staples, Target and Wal-Mart.
She posted her most recent comparisons on July 9 and will update prices every Monday until after school starts. She's found that the best deals on backpacks, for example, usually pop up in the last week of July.
"The next two weeks of July usually bring the best deals. Wait until August or September and you'll usually pay more," Rocha said.
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