The business of back to school is big bucks
by Jennifer Hafer
August 06, 2013 12:05 PM | 651 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Customer Meganne Dehner buys supplies from School Box cashier Josh Wright during a recent afternoon. (Staff/Jennifer Carter)
Customer Meganne Dehner buys supplies from School Box cashier Josh Wright during a recent afternoon. (Staff/Jennifer Carter)
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CUMBERLAND - Backpacks, folders, clothes, pens and pencils are flying off the shelves of local retailers as families across Cobb County get ready to go back to school. But students aren't the only ones in need of supplies for the new school year.

The School Box founder Christina Persson was a first-grade teacher at Murdock Elementary School back in the '80s when she went shopping for classroom decorations and materials, but found only one small corner of a store with resources for teachers. And thus was born the idea for School Box, a store dedicated to teachers and students.

"We specialize in classroom and educational supplies for teachers, homeschoolers and resources for parents to help students at home," said Marketing Manager Phillip Taylor. "Supplies for elementary school students and classrooms is our biggest section."

The first School Box opened in East Cobb in 1990, and today, the privately held and family-owned chain boasts 11 stores — eight in the metro Atlanta area — and annual sales of $15 million.

“Back-to-school-shopping for us starts after July 4 and runs through the end of August,” Taylor said. “Last year, those two months comprised 35 percent of our yearly sales, so this is definitely our Christmas season.”

Headquartered in Marietta, there are two School Box locations in Tennessee and one in Virginia.

Just as teachers are preparing to get back into the classroom, so too, are the 108,262 students enrolled in the 112 schools that comprise the Cobb County School District. Marietta City Schools serve 8,000 students at eight elementary schools, one middle school, one sixth-grade school and one high school.

In back-to-school advertising, local retailers such as Target and Kohl’s are offering everything from the latest looks in fashion to dorm essentials.

Though representatives from both companies declined to discuss back-to-school shopping sales numbers, according to a financial disclosure report on Kohl’s website, historically, outside of the holiday shopping season, Kohl’s posts some of its biggest sales numbers during back-to-school season.

According to the report, Kohl’s combined sales nationwide for July and August totaled almost $2.7 billion.

In its annual “Back-to-School Survey,” the National Retail Federation states families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion.

Total back-to-school and back-to-college spending combined will reach $72.5 billion.

“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Having splurged on their growing children’s needs last year, parents will ask their kids to reuse what they can for the upcoming school season. As they continue to grapple with the impact of increased payroll taxes, Americans will look to cut corners where they can, but will buy what their kids need. It’s important to note, however, that spending levels are still well above where they were a few years ago.”

According to the NRF, the biggest portion of back-to-school shoppers’ budgets will go toward new apparel and accessories: 95.3 percent of those with school-age children will spend an average of $230.85 on fall sweaters, denim and other pieces of attire. Additionally, families will spend on shoes ($114.39) and school supplies ($90.49).

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