PORTLAND - It's the second most important shopping season behind Christmas -- back to school shopping. But, this year retailers are taking a different approach before class begins.
The school shopping season begins just as school is out for the summer. Retailers are hoping to cash in before vacation mode sets in.
Some are using the 'Back to School' banner to include everything in the store.
But now, with just about four weeks or so until the school bell rings, the print ads are out in force to drive shoppers out of the sun and into the stores.
At Fred Meyer, back to school really includes everything in the store.
"Especially for Fred Meyer, it's pretty much the whole store, it's not just school supplies, it's apparel, it's electronics, it's food, it's almost everything we have in the store is part of back to school. It' huge for the whole company," said Melinda Merrill, spokesman for Fred Meyer.
The National Retail Federation expects nearly $84 billion to be spent on pens and pencils, notebooks and binders. That comes down to a $688 dollar tab the average family of K-12 students.
But, some forecasters aren't so optimistic.
"Back to School sales will be up anywhere from zero to two percent, which is pretty anemic, said Mark Champion, analyst with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. "The consumer balance sheet is still pretty shaky", he said.
Shoppers this year, as in the past, are taking advantage of sales. 85 percent of shoppers say the economy will impact where they shop for school and college supplies.
And since 2003, online sales have quadrupled for back to school sales. This year it will reach near 40 percent.