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Back-to-school shopping stays flat, supply drives popular

Families will be keeping a tight grip on their pocketbook for back-to-school supplies, due to lingering doubts over the economy. And donation drives remain popular as well.

Families will be keeping a tight grip on their pocketbook for back-to-school supplies, due to lingering doubts over the economy. And donation drives remain popular as well.

The National Retail Federation says school supply sales will nearly match those of 2010. Spokeswoman Kathy Grannis says the average American family with grade school kids will spend roughly $600, mostly on things they can't reuse from last year.

"Consumers continue to see problems with the housing market, and unemployment...the lingering effects of the recession are still around," says Grannis. "And with that, instead of everything on their list, parents are going to ask their kids to look through their closets, and really make a list based on what they need, and not what they want."

And more families want assistance, says Rojeane Anderson, who runs a school supply drive for the Vogel Foundation and Madison Urban Ministry, for needy children in Dane County. Anderson says for this year, an estimated 21,260 students will qualify for assistance, and may have need for school supplies.

"Last year, there were 19,472 students in need, so we're up nearly 2,000 more students again this year," adds Anderson.

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In the Appleton/Green Bay area, an annual back-to-school shopping spree run by Target and the Salvation Army remains popular. Rob Waugus of the Salvation Army of the Fox Cities, says 60 students will be chosen this week to receive $85 for clothes and supplies. He says this program -- and other ones for food and warm coats -- are still essential for many families.

"We've seen an increase of about 5 to 10-percent in some particular areas," says Waugus. "But things are starting to level out in terms of the need. With this economy, flat is the new up."

Waugus says one striking change from a couple years ago, is that many donors are now clients.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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