Thanks to steadily increasing cotton and labor costs, fashion manufacturers are cutting back on both quality and extras. Instead, they’re using inexpensive tweaks to con shoppers into believing they’re actually getting more for their money — thus the new slang term “con-flation.”
It looks like parents aren’t buying it, however. The National Retail Foundation released a study in late July indicating back-to-school shoppers plan to spend less this year across the board.
According to the study, “Parents are actually taking inventory of last year’s items, asking kids to…try on those ‘old’ jeans, and check if the tennis shoes still fit.”
The Labor Department reported clothing prices rose 1.2 percent in July, the third straight increase in the last year. In 12 months, clothing costs rose 3.1 percent, the biggest yearly increase since July 1992.
Shopper pragmatism is one way to beat the system; another is to use cost-saving methods to reduce back-to-school budgets. Here are six recommendations.
1. Examine the Extras
Thinner jeans and cap sleeves became standard for manufacturers looking to reduce their production costs. Watch for other cost-cutting tweaks, like fake pockets and buttonholes. Stores can charge shoppers up to $10 more for an embellishment that costs them pennies to produce.
2. Don’t Give Into the Tweet
Creative social marketing techniques reach younger audiences in a forceful way. Facebook-based coupons, sale announcements, and aggressive Tweeting make it look like kids will get a good buy when they’re actually being manipulated into patronizing higher-end merchants.
3. Shop Online
Surfing for school clothes is easier than comparison shopping between brick-and-mortar outlets. The wise shopper knows, however, they can reduce their costs further at places like JCPenney by using free shipping codes, or by joining free shipping clubs.
4. Consign and Buy
Kids grow out of clothes so quickly there’s often still lots of wear left in them. Consignment stores turn old clothes into cash while offering potential purchases for new items. Most shops make you wait for payment until clothing is sold, but the female-clothing chain Plato’s Closet pays at drop-off.
5. Swap Clothing
Many swap websites allow parents to trade old for new without the long wait of consignment stores. Members can make trades either locally or across the country, but long-distance swaps require both parties pay for shipping.
6. Hold Out for the Holidays
Sales start after back-to-school shopping is usually completed. Shoppers who hold off until later in the fall — or even for holiday sales like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Free Shipping Day — can save on fall fashions.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.