Stores woo back-to-school shoppers

A national study reported spending among students has decreased this year.
Freshman Harison Pitchford shops for dorm furnishings in a College Essentials aisle Wednesday at Target. Retail stores experiencing a decrease in back-to-school sales are running various promotions to get students into their stores.

It's back-to-school season again and college students can be found buying the necessary items for dorm rooms, classes and more, but a recent study by the National Retail Federation said students will be spending less this year on school shopping than in the past.

To encourage back-to-school spending, stores in Columbia such as Target and Walmart provided free transportation to and from their locations this past weekend to help facilitate student spending.

"Target's After Hours Shopping Events are a great way to welcome students to campus, help them meet new people and ease their transition to college life," Target spokeswoman Tara Schlosser said in an e-mail.

National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis said stores have many products that appeal to college students.

"Colorful furniture, accessories, home decor and even electronic items are flashy and very attractive to young adults," Grannis said.

The Target event was held in 48 college towns across the nation, including Columbia. Walmart has been using the shuttles on move-in weekend for 20 years. The MSA/GPC Department of Student Activities and the Department of Student Life sponsor the transportation to and from campus.

Shopping at Walmart with her father last week, sophomore Cassie Cunningham said her shopping strategy has improved with experience.

"I think (the Walmart shuttles) help make good decisions to buy stuff," she said. "Last year, I had to make two to three trips to get little things I forgot to get with my parents."

Shopping at the Target event, freshman Morgan Hausman said the event facilitated unnecessary spending.

"I feel like when students come it's hard to not buy things," she said. "When you see something you think you need, you buy it because you're like, 'I'm not going to come back.'"

Freshman Eli Tinker-Fortel, another shopper at the Target event, came with minimal spending in mind.

"I'm amazed at how many students have their shopping carts full," Tinker-Fortel said.

Students and parents agreed saving money was important in their spending, Cassie Cunningham's father, Rory Cunningham, said.

"Parents don't have jobs right now," he said. "We're very fortunate because in Austin there are a lot of jobs. Many people are going with what they have instead of trying to buy."

Grannis said she has also noticed that parents' employment and earnings impacts students' spending.

"College students are on just as much of a budget as their parents, students will invest in what they need most, before splurging on other items," she said. "Electronics, dorm furniture and apparel are among the items that college students will spend the most money on."

But there are students who purchased a majority of their items new, as opposed to bringing items from home. Freshman Jennifer Frier said she brought very little from home.

"Like, decorations in my room and clothes," she said. "Everything else was new."

Most students said anything from hygienic products all the way to a computer are absolute essentials for college students. Tinker-Fortel estimated that he brought about 75 percent of his items from home.

"I didn't buy a lot of new stuff," he said. "I live pretty close to home and I was just abroad, so I know not to bring a lot."

Grannis added that freshmen often are the source of the highest percentage of spending because this is their first time without their parents' immediate support.

"Freshmen are just getting started with their own independent lives, meaning they will need more furniture, books and even electronics," she said. "New college freshmen and their parents have historically spent more than sophomores, juniors or seniors."

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