Back-to-school bargain hunters hit Tri-City stores

No. 2 pencils. Check.

Colored markers, Check.

Wide-ruled notebook paper. Check.

Three-ring binder. Check.

Whatever is on your child's back-to-school supply list, you are likely to find it on sale somewhere in the next few weeks.

Kathy Hunter of Richland had five children, ages 6 to 17, to buy for this year.

She began watching the sales weeks ago and on Friday picked up the last few items they will need at Office Depot in Richland -- white glue and binders.

"You can't have too many binders," she said. "Now I'm done."

Before heading out to shop, Hunter did what many parents are doing in this economy, she checked leftover supplies from last year to see what could be reused, such as calculators.

"(S)hoppers are going to be canvassing their closets for last year's glue sticks and sneakers before making decisions on what they really need to buy this year," said Margaret Case Little, director of communications for the National Retail Federation.

Parents also are stocking up early -- weeks and months before the start of the 2011-12 school year, showed the survey.

"Some people began buying almost as soon as school let out. But they really began buying at the beginning of July when we put (supplies) out," said Cindy Sammons, a store associate at Big Lots! in Richland.

Though not everyone is as proactive as Hunter, many retailers expect most supply sales will come in the next two to three weeks. Classes begin at most Tri-City schools the last week of August.

"With the economy the way it is, bargains are probably the biggest thing people are looking for," said Kyle Monoian, store manager at the Office Depot in Richland.

The average family of K-12 students plans to spend about the same amount as last year -- $600 on school supplies, shoes and clothing.

And the national retail survey showed that college students and their parents will spend about $800 on average this year, down $30 from last year.

Half of the consumers surveyed said they will shop for sales more often and over a third will be using coupons more often.

Even so, families who struggle to put food on the table will find it difficult to squeeze their budget to cover school supplies.

Two different efforts are under way to help lower income families get supplies.

The Salvation Army, Martha's Cupboard, Fred Meyer and area banks are working together to provide school supplies to children in the Tri-City area.

Seniors Helping All Kids' Education is sponsoring its 17th annual school supply collection through 55 boxes scattered throughout the Tri-Cities where people can drop off everything from pencils to backpacks.

Providing supplies for lower-income kids

Want to help needy students as they head back to school? Consider donating to these school supply collection drives:

* The Salvation Army, Martha's Cupboard, Fred Meyer and area banks are working together to provide school supplies to children in the Tri-City area.

Drop school supplies at Key Bank, Bank of the West, Sterling Bank, Yakima Federal Savings and Loan, Banner Bank, US Bank, Columbia Bank, Bank Reale and Fred Meyer stores.

Supplies needed are: pens, pencils, folders, three-ring binders, crayons, markers, erasers, glue, glue sticks, scissors and backpacks.

Supplies can be donated through Aug. 19. Call 547-2138 for more information.

* Seniors Helping All Kids' Education is sponsoring the 17th annual Project SHAKE.

The supplies gathered will be distributed to children at more than 77 area schools.

More than 55 boxes labeled "SHAKE" are available in area businesses, including the Albertsons stores and the American West banks, and at the Kennewick and Pasco senior centers.

They are taking donations through Tuesday. SHAKE is sponsored by the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, which is a program of Catholic Family & Child Service.

For more information, call Jeanette Fields at 425-444-3041 or Kelly Ramey at 545-6145.