Retailers are seeing the slowest back-to-school season in many years as consumers cling to their cash, the New York Times reports. Estimates on sales, an early indicator of how stores will fare in the holiday season, show declines of 3 to 8% from last year, which saw a 1% increase. Spending is expected to drop on clothing, electronics, and every other category apart from traditional school supplies like pencils and notebooks.
Frugal shoppers are steering clear of name brands, surveys show, with stores like Abercrombie & Fitch being dropped in favor of discount chains. Parents have been scouring the Internet for bargains more thoroughly than ever before. Google searches for coupons have leaped 40% from last year, and many shoppers are taking full advantage of email alerts informing them of special offers.