CHICAGO — Dread might be too strong a word but Kate Hunt’s feelings about back-to-school shopping aren’t far from those of kids who soon will have to give up lazy afternoons at the pool for long hours in the classroom.
The supply lists her first- and third-grade sons’ school sent home were simultaneously not specific enough and too specific with one list requiring eight folders, each a different color.
“There’s just so many rules,” said Hunt, of suburban Chicago, hoping to cross most items off the boys’ lists at the local Target on a recent Monday afternoon with as little hassle as possible.
Still, she’s out there in the stores with seemingly every other family with a K-12 student. While online shopping is an option, many families continue the tradition of trekking to stores and pushing a cart loaded with pencils, notebooks, folder, tissue boxes, a protractor and a first-day outfit remains intact.
For some families, the shopping trips are a way to get kids excited about the upcoming year. Others are skeptical buying online would be any less of a chore.
“It feels like one of the few things that’s actually easier in the store,” Hunt said.
Back-to-school is the retail industry’s second-biggest shopping season, and families with children in kindergarten through high school are expected to spend an estimated $29.5 billion this year, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation.
Most of those dollars are still spent in stores instead of online.
More than 70 percent of last year’s back-to-school purchases were made in bricks-and-mortar stores, according to market research firm The NPD Group.
When it comes to apparel, Katy Mickelson, a mother of two from Chicago, said she still likes to touch and feel most items before buying. She also wants her kids — a son…