The kids may already be sitting in the classroom, but that doesn't mean there aren't great deals still available on items they need for school. If you're a procrastinator or you're looking to get the best possible price, you've still got a little time left to score deep discounts on supplies and clothes. You'll also find you're likely not alone.
According to the consulting firm Deloitte, nearly a third of parents they surveyed say they're actually going to be reusing and recycling supplies from last year, which has led the National Retail Federation to report the average family with schoolage kids will spend 6% less this year, or $630, compared to a year ago. And fully 30% are going to wait till the last possible minute to do their shopping.
If that's you, then here are the top five retailers you can still turn to and get what you need:
Amazon.com (AMZN 0.90%). Amazon gives teachers the opportunity to begin creating lists for the fall semester as early as May 1 and parents can access them at the same time. It's part of the reason retailers like Kohl's have said they're experiencing a difficult back-to-school season; parents are able to buy essentials for school all year long online, and only need to shop physical stores for fill-in items.
E-commerce consultant Profitero found that Amazon.com almost always has the best price. According to Forbes, across some 4,000 items, the online retailer had the best deal, and free two-day shipping for Prime members could be had on them 91% of the time.
Wal-Mart (WMT -1.23%). There's a reason the King of Retail sits atop its throne. While Amazon did routinely beat out Wal-Mart on prices in the Profitero survey, it was only by the slimmest of margins. The e-commerce leader's prices were usually just 1% lower than those found at Wal-Mart.
The retailer has made it a point to be competitive when it comes to online shopping and has been investing billions of dollars in its e-commerce platform. While infrastructure is important, consumers are looking for deals, and Wal-Mart's back-to-school section has clothes starting at just $4.47, and for orders over $35, you can get free shipping, too.
Staples (SPLS). This year marks the office supply superstore's 29th annual back-to-school promotion, one of the retailer's busiest shopping periods outside of the Christmas holiday.
While Staples has made the season memorable over the years with its "It's the Most Wonderful TIme of the Year" commercials heralding the start of the school year themed with the Christmas tune playing in the background, consumers still probably appreciate more its 110% low-price guarantee that runs through Sept. 19 and which promises to match any competitor's price and then beat it by 10%.
Apple (AAPL 0.42%). For those with kids heading off to college, the tech giant is offering as much as $200 off on Macbooks, iPads, and iMacs, but is also extending a $200 credit on a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones headphones with a qualifying purchase. That means it's good only on its laptops and desktops and is limited to just students and teachers.
J.C. Penney (JCPN.Q). The department store operator took a somewhat different tack this year with its back-to-school promotion, coupling discounts and deals with an anti-bullying message.
J.C. Penney's "Bend the Trend" campaign encourages kids to mix-and-match styles to create a personalized statement about their fashion sense. It suggests possibilities like "a girly skater skirt with a bold, metallic screen tee" or "a chic faux fur vest with high-top sneakers." It also partnered with AwesomenessTV from DreamWorks Animation to create four videos featuring teen stars who will wear mashed-up clothing styles from the retailer to encourage positivity online. Kids don't have to feel social pressure just because they're different, and the retailer is trying to encourage individualization.
Though it was all part of J.C. Penney's "National Shout Out Day" on Aug. 12, the styles and clothes -- and discounts -- are still available.
Retailers everywhere have come to rely upon back-to-school sales to boost sales during the summer doldrums, and like the Christmas season holiday creep that has seen them begin advertising earlier each year -- Wal-Mart might have broken the record promoting its layaway program 119 days before the holiday -- expect retailers to extend the savings for school as long as possible, too, to scoop up as much revenue as they can when consumers are cutting back.