Back-to-school shopping begins

Back to school written on a chalkboard

Kai Ryssdal: We've been talking jobs a lot lately. Kinda comes hand-in-glove with doing a show on business and the economy.

Now, though, we're going to talk about another type of work, the kind you do six to 18. The one lots of kids wish they could get laid off from: Full-time student.

It is -- had you missed the advertising -- back-to-school time, which leads to back-to-school shopping. Ever-hopeful retailers have been dreaming they might finally be able to raise prices this season to cover their higher costs. But consumers, especially after the market events of the past two weeks, might have a different idea.

From New York, Sally Herships reports.


Sally Herships: Fashion may be new, but prices are old.

Erika Maschmeyer: Retailers had to lock in high cotton prices six to nine months ago to get the product that you're seeing in the stores today.

Erika Maschmeyer is a retail analyst with Robert W. Baird. She says an unprecedented spike in cotton prices, plus rising wages in China, have sent apparel costs up by double digits. And retailers are counting on consumers to make up the difference, especially on higher-priced clothing.

Maschmeyer: If it's a gorgeous top and it's got details, you're probably not going to care about that $3 as much as if you were buying a $8 T-shirt.

Marshal Cohen: They may put some more stitching in; they may put some different buttons on it. They might even use different fabric.

That's the NPD Group's Marshal Cohen.

Cohen: Sometimes it actually costs the retailer less, or the manufacturer less, but they can charge more because it's new product.

And Cohen says, making small changes for bigger payoffs is one of back-to-school's biggest trends.

In New York, I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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