Tri-City parents choosy on buying school supplies

Laurie Harrison bought notebooks, pencils, binders and tools for geometry as part of last-minute back-to-school shopping Thursday at the Target store in Kennewick.

She bought more items than were on her daughter's list, the Kennewick mom said. The Harrisons already had purchased most school supplies at Wal-Mart earlier, she said, adding that they didn't buy new lunchboxes and backpacks this school year, which starts Monday.

Her son Luke, a seventh-grade student at Liberty Christianin Richland, and daughter Kiran, who's in third grade at the same school, are OK with that, she said.

"I like to save money," said Harrison, who generally shops at discount chain stores.

Back-to-school shopping traffic has been fairly brisk, said Katelyn Lee, one of the managers at the Kennewick Target.

Customers have been buying school supplies and backpacks, spending on average $50, she said. She also has seen back-to-school shoppers buy headphones for their music players.

Since the end of June, Target has set up a special back-to-school section for K-12 students and put a special color code to mark things that college-bound students might need, like comforters, sheets, plastic totes, fleece blankets and butterfly chairs, Lee said.

More than 40 percent of families with students already in college or planning to attend one have yet to start shopping, a recent National Retail Federation survey found.

Parents are being careful and making careful spending decisions, said Pam Goodfellow, senior analyst at BIGresearch, which conducted the survey for the federation.

Jean Ross of West Richland said she spent about $40 at the Kennewick Target on Thursday to buy her grandson, Hawk, the school supplies he'll need when he starts sixth grade at Enterprise Middle School on Tuesday.

Everything was reasonably priced, Ross said, although she spent less money compared with what she did last year.

She got him new clothes and a backpack that he liked some time ago, Ross said.

Normally, she buys school supplies earlier in the season from an office supply store, making use of their sales. But this year, she didn't have the time, she said.

She initially was wor- ried that things would be out of stock just before school starts. But she got everything except a glue stick, Ross said.

Back-to-school sales are strong at Grigg's Department Store in Pasco, said Charlie Grigg, vice president of the company. The store has seen a strong sale of kids shoes, he said.

It's about giving customers value for their purchase, Grigg said. "We don't carry expensive brands," he said.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541;

Credit: Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

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