Glance at the trusty desk calendar, and you can see that August is running out and summer is drawing to a close. Many of us associate the lazy last days of summer with parents' obligatory back-to-school shopping trips, and the NPD Group has released its data projecting what back-to-school retail sales are going to look like. For those who have been agonizing over recent dire information that may have sounded negative for consumer spending, the expected slight uptick probably sounds like fine news.

First off, NPD projects that back-to-school sales are going to be up 1.4%, with $372 allotted per child, according to the research group's survey. As scant an increase as that is, given recent hand-wringing about gasoline prices biting into consumers' budgets perhaps that's as good a forecast as can be expected. Top items on families' shopping lists include school supplies, clothing, and footwear, with "value" being an important impetus to buy.

Oddly enough, signs aren't really there that things are looking too flush for the back-to-school season. Pencils, calculators, and notebooks seem sure to be must-have items, gained from stores such as Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) or Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), but what about new fall wardrobes?

Last week, W.D. Crotty commented on Gap's (NYSE:GPS) latest earnings, which included word that August sales so far have been weak enough to cause the company to drop its fiscal 2005 earnings forecast. Foolish colleague Seth Jayson also reported that things seemed a bit grounded at Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO).

On the other hand, recent history has shown teen-oriented retailer American Eagle Outfitters (NASDAQ:AEOS) is doing well, as Fool contributor Stephen Simpson pointed out earlier this month. Meanwhile, tweener retailer Too (NYSE:TOO) said when it reported earnings that its back-to-school season is going well so far, although Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy suggested today that this stock's got some risks related to its fickle customer demographic.

As much as many might argue that research data should be taken with a grain of salt (case in point, all the recent distress over consumer spending), it'll be interesting to see whether consumers at large reflect the survey data and shrug off prices at the pump. Meanwhile, those of us who like to watch retail will continue to watch and see just which retailers seem to be resonating with the back-to-school crowd.

Gap is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. To find out what other stocks have been picked by David and Tom Gardner, take a free trial today.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.