School clothes shopping season opens early

The beaches are packed, the a/c is humming, and the kids are rolling out of bed just in time for supper; sure signs that school clothes shopping season has arrived. If your stimulus check isn't spoken for, J. C. Penny, Macy's, Target, Walmart et .al. would like you to pay them a visit to check out what wonders have appeared on their racks this week.

The school clothes shopping season is, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the second most lucrative time of the year for retailers, and many are looking to overcome the recent malaise by launching the season early and with great fanfare. While industry analysts expect sales in line with the recent soft market, retailers are countering with more products and wider advertising in hopes of moving the needle.

Several companies are pushing Internet marketing this year, such as Macy's self-produced YouTubed miniseries, Ragged Road. The show follows the exploits of five young adults exploring the music world. Pennys features an online game, "DorkDodge," in which the player must maneuver a cute girl through a minefield of dorky boys to reach the prize hunk o' love.

If recent Christmas retail patterns serve as an indicator of what to expect for pre-school shopping, look for some great deals in August if July sales sputter. If selection is more important than price to you, though, now is the time to head to the mall for fall.

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