Retailers report healthy back-to-school season

"Backpacks, school supplies and new clothes - students heading back to school today, Sept. 5, need them, and parents typically spend a handsome sum to buy them.Discount and department stores in Silverdale report doing brisk business this back-to-school season, despite a national trend of lower retail sales and a recent dip in the consumer confidence index.It has been excellent this week (of Aug. 27), said Ron Gascoyne, a manager at the Silverdale Target store. We're doing double-digit gains this week as well as last week (over 2000). I think when things get tight people tend to shop in discount stores.Backpacks, hand-held organizers, organization accessories for lockers, and clothing - especially basics like jeans, socks and underwear - have done particularly well, Gascoyne said. Mossimo and Chic have been among the most popular clothing brands.And the rush is probably not over yet.We get a blip after school starts - when kids see the fashion trends, Gascoyne said.While basic clothing items like jeans haven't sold as well at the Bon Marché, there have been specialized items that have disappeared from the racks, said Michelle Nussbaum, the department manager for the men's and kids sections. Long sweaters (called sweepers), zip-off pants, Attitude t-shirts and long-sleeved t-shirts have been very popular. Fashion pants like embroidered flare-leg jeans with sparkle belts and cargo pants, also have sold well, she said.At the start of this season sales were sluggish, Nussbaum said, but they have picked up in recent weeks. Promotional coupons clipped from newspapers have been used by many cost-conscious parents this year.Nussbaum echoed Gascoyne's observation that students prefer to go back to school and see what other people are wearing before making all of their purchases.Nussbaum acknowledged that the retail climate in Silverdale is competitive, but she thinks the Bon's customer service counts for a lot.That's what keeps people coming back to the Bon, Nussbaum said.Colleen Gainey, manager of the Bon's Cube youth clothing section, said sales are up from last year. New brands the store has picked up, such as DKNY and XOXO, are managing well with the teen crowd. She noted that camouflage clothing items the store had marketed heavily were not selling.One store that did not fare as well in August was Rebel Trading Co., which buys and sells brand-name recycled clothing and accessories.As a whole our sales are lower (than in years past), said owner Heather Hayes. But people come in saying they can't afford to shop at the mall and they are bringing in their tax return checks.She said her customers, many of whom are teenagers who prefer not to shop retail, have stuck mostly to casual clothing this season.We haven't sold a lot of dresses, Hayes said.She added that there are definite advantages to doing your shopping at used clothing stores.You save money and there's a variety of brands that aren't sold in Kitsap County, like Banana Republic, Old Navy and J-Crew, Hayes said. "

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