I can remember my grandparents telling me stories of their childhood during the Great Depression. They grew up on a farm in southeast Missouri, and food, not to mention money, was scarce. Many of their stories involved running barefoot all summer, only to get a new pair of shoes every fall to go to school. Even in the 1930’s, the Back-To-School season could spur spending.
With the current economic conditions, everyone’s looking for signs of recovery and growth. “When will things get back to ‘normal’?” is a question on everyone’s mind. An upcoming litmus test is likely the Back-to-School season. It seems that consumers are buying out of necessity these days, but in many cases parents will buy for their children before they will buy for themselves.
This Back-to-School season may hit at the optimal time during which consumers are feeling a little more comfortable in their financial futures. It may also show that if a family has resources above and beyond the day-to-day necessities, they will use them for their children. As school begins, children are more likely to actually need items as well. They’re growing, and their clothes from last year don’t fit anymore. They need a new backpack because the old one is worn after being carried for a year. And, they must have new school supplies.
Recent retail sales numbers have been bleak, with consumers showing severe cutbacks on their spending since last October. There have been many comparisons of our current economic situation to the one of the Great Depression. The numbers do seem to be stabilizing though. Perhaps this Back-To-School season will provide a metric for what the new “normal” will be in terms of retail sales, giving those consumers an excellent motivation to begin spending again.