As several of Lawrence's largest retailers said Friday that they hadn't seen signs of what had been forecast as a sluggish back-to-school shopping season, shoppers say they're taking advantage of sales to prepare for classes.
Nationally, parents and teens are expected to spend about 4 percent less on back-to-school supplies this year, according to the recently released American Express Retail Index. Some are blaming the economy, while others are taking advantage of the retail climate.
"We've just been hitting more sales because there seems to be more sales to hit," said Michelle McClure, a Lawrence mother, who shopped Friday downtown. "The stores seem to be offering better deals, so we've ended up spending less."
Managers at some of the biggest stores in Lawrence say they're poised to ring up sales that will beat last year's tallies.
"The numbers that we are looking at show that it should be the best back-to-school season that we've had in the last four years here," said Richard Chappell, store manager at Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa.
Major discount stores traditionally perform well in slowing economic times, Chappell said.
SuperTarget, 3201 Iowa, ranks among the top 2 percent of all Target stores in back-to-school sales performance that earns the store the in-company title of "super freaky," said Marcie Langenberg, executive team leader.
The title also means that the Lawrence store gets a larger selection of traditional college merchandise, ranging from futons to dorm-cleaning kits.
"Actually, dorm weekend is just as big for us as a Christmas weekend is," Langenberg said. "The only difference is that back-to-school is usually a four-weekend period and Christmas is more like five to six weekends."
Steve Wyss, store manager at JC Penney, 3311 Iowa, said that his customers hadn't been talking about changes in the economy.
Instead, the buzz surrounds changes in fall fashions that have helped store sales top those at this time last year.
"I don't know that we're insulated from an economic downturn here in Lawrence, but for whatever reason the economy here seems to be good and people are still spending money," Wyss said.