Holiday season falls in August for Chrissy Viera. The owner of Teacher's World on Union Street in Kennewick said the weeks leading up to the end of summer vacation and the start of the new school year account for about 20 percent of her store's annual sales.
"It's our Christmas," Viera said.
Viera opened Teacher's World in December 2011 when she recognized a demand for stores specializing in teaching supplies. In July, she opened a second shop in Spokane.
"We have the only store like this here," Viera said. "And the only one like it in Spokane."
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Viera starts preparing for the summer rush in February. Much of her merchandise comes from American Specialty Toy Retailing Association toy fairs.
"Everything they have there is not marketed to the big box stores," Viera said. "It's all education-related."
Most of Viera's wares conform to Common Core educational standards, which are supposed to be fully implemented in Washington classrooms this coming school year.
Back-to-school shopping marks the second-largest "consumer holiday" in the country -- behind the actual holiday season -- and Americans are expected to spend about $74.9 billion on back-to-school supplies this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Families are projected to pay, on average, about $101 to get their children prepared for the upcoming school year, up from $91 per family last year.
"Back to school is huge," said Stuart Logg, owner of Basin Department Store in Kennewick. "Coupled with the fair, this is a tremendous time of year for us."
Basin is entering its 60th year of operations this year, and despite a changing business landscape that's increasingly dominated by big box stores, locally owned outfits like Basin continue to find a way to cater to locals, Logg said.
Logg has been with Basin Department Store for 44 years. He remembers when back-to-school shopping included about three stops -- "It was us, JCPenney and Montgomery Ward, and that was it."
With more shopping options available to consumers, it's important to identify trends and anticipate what his customers will want leading up to the start of school, Logg said.
Recently, for example, he's noticed a resurgence in the popularity of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers.
Customer service also is a selling point.
"What we have to offer is personalized business and personalized ordering," Logg said.
Logg didn't discuss finances, but this year is shaping up to be one of the best in the past decade, he said.
"It's considerably better than 2006 and everything in between," Logg said.
About 34 percent of consumers nationwide plan to purchase more generic or store-brand items this year than in the past, according to the National Retail Federation. That could be good news for Charlie Grigg, vice president of Grigg's Department Store in Pasco.
"Our store is built more like a value store than a department store," Grigg said. "We've got the less expensive (items)."
Grigg's has been open for 75 years and, like Logg, Grigg has noted a shift in the retail topography. Items like stationery now take up less space on the shelves than they used to. Clothing and shoes might take up more. Back-to-school shopping is now often spread over numerous stores and websites instead of just a handful of businesses, he said.
"More options lead to lesser purchases," Grigg said.
Still, this time of year is important, he said.
"Our business does a huge amount (of sales) during summer," he said.
-- Drew Foster: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org