Back-to-school for parents means back to shopping

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In about an hour, Jessa Jacquemain of Rohnert Park and her mother, Kimberly, picked out five school outfits, most of them on sale, Monday at the JCPenney store in Coddingtown.

Jessa, 7, who will be entering the second grade at Hahn Elementary School next week, said she got everything she wanted.

“We did good,” said her mom, pleased with the $86.92 tab.

Jessa’s grandmother, Shellie Binchi, noted the outfits can be handed down to the girl’s siblings, Gianna, 3, and Juliette, almost 2, who came along on the shopping trip.

“I was the oldest one (in my family); I got the new stuff,” Binchi said, recalling how the hand-me-down principle worked for her.

The Jacquemains were part of the annual back-to-school consumer spending wave, expected nationally to total $75.8 billion this year, up 11 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend $9.54 billion on clothing, $8.27 billion on computers and other electronics, $5.12 billion on shoes and $4.37 billion on supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunch boxes for a total of $27.3 billion, the retail group said.

College is a far more expensive proposition, with spending on big-ticket items like computers and minifridges for the dorm totaling $48.5 billion.

Average cost per family comes to $673 for those with children in K-12, and $889 for college students and families with children enrolled in higher education, the retail group said.

The retail federation based its spending forecasts on a survey of 6,809 consumers conducted June 30 to July 6.

The anticipated uptick in school-related spending this year is based on a cycle of “stock up” and “make do” years in which families spend more on stuff one year, then cut back the next as they get a second year out of durable items like backpacks and computers, the federation said.

Spending typically increases the third year as kids outgrow clothing or items wear out, it said.

“Families are still looking for bargains, but there are signs that they are less worried about the economy than in the past,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the retail federation, said in a press release.

Back-to-school spending is a distant second to winter holiday sales, which totaled $626 billion last year, the group said.

Katie DeLucca of Santa Rosa said she looks for sales this time of year. Monday, she spent about $100 on five T-shirts, one with a skateboard attached, and two pairs of shorts for her son, Dominic, 6, an incoming first grader at Yulupa Elementary School.

“I wouldn’t buy him a new backpack, and he wanted one,” she said.

Dominic said he was happy to go shopping at JCPenney with his mother and without his twin sister, Mariella, whom he unkindly referred to as an “annoying sissy.”

Katie DeLucca said she’d just come from buying school supplies at Target and still needed to get shoes for the twins.

“The older they get, the more expensive it will be, I’m sure,” she said.

Also on Monday, 27 foster children from the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home were treated to a shopping spree at Old Navy, courtesy of the Children’s Home Auxiliary. The kids, ages 6 to 17, got either $100 or $150 worth of clothes, depending on their size.

Having a new pair of jeans makes the first day of school easier for children who have been removed by the courts from their birth families, said Meg Easter-Dawson, program development manager at the home.

Easter-Dawson said one boy told her: “I never got new clothes before.”

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.

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