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Toledo Public Schools adopted uniforms this year to make things simpler for students and parents. But the move has disrupted usual shopping patterns and has left some retailers waiting for cash registers to ring.
"There's some sales activity, but we haven't seen it reach its peak yet but we certainly will soon," said Mark Stevens, manager of the Dillard's store at the Southwyck Shopping Center.
Parents haven't started shopping for school uniforms just yet, Mr. Stevens said. "Uniforms are what children must have, not what they want. Consequently, it's always done at the last minute. We've had a few customers come in to buy uniforms early, but not a lot yet."
Meanwhile, at Schoolbelles, a national chain that specializes in school uniforms, manager Tina Williams said many shoppers who have come into her store on Monroe Street in Sylvania seeking uniforms for Toledo public schools seem unsure how much clothing to buy.
"Parents are buying too many outfits," she said. "The idea of uniforms is to save money."
With uniforms, one or two jumpers and three to five blouses will get a girl through the school year, she said. But she said some people are buying five or six outfits because that's what they're accustomed to buying.
Ms. Williams agreed with Mr. Stevens that back-to-school shopping doesn't appear to have hit full speed just yet.
"July was a little slow, slower than last year," she said.
Nationally, parents with school-age children are expected to spend an average of $483 on back-to-school items this year, an increase of 7 percent over last year's $450, according to a survey by the Washington-based National Retail Federation.
Overall, adults will spend nearly $15 billion this year on items for elementary through high school students, the retail federation said.
About 93 percent of families with school-aged children intend to buy clothes, shoes, and school supplies this year, and 42 percent said they will buy electronics or computer-related equipment as well, according to the retail federation survey.
The average consumer is expected to spend $219 on clothing, $89 on shoes, and $73 on school supplies.
Charles Shaw, manager of the Shoe Carnival on Airport Highway, said back-to-school shoe buying started strong two weeks ago and hasn't let up.
He expects strong sales through mid-September and thus far sales are comparable to last year's.
"I think with the elementary kids people are buying with uniforms in mind and looking for blacks and browns [shoes]," Mr. Shaw said.
But elsewhere in Toledo, retailers reported that back-to-school shopping doesn't appear to have begun in earnest yet.
Store managers at Old Navy and at Office Depot, both on Airport Highway in Toledo, said buying has been building steadily but has not yet peaked. They said expect sales to pick up over the next two weeks.
Todd Hiepler, manager of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park, noted that after a late-July surge in back-to-school buying,
"There were competing interests out there this past weekend," specifically the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic golf tournament, the Rib-off festival on Toledo's downtown riverfront, and ideal weather.
"We're optimistic, though, about this weekend," Mr. Hiepler said.
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