August is back-to-school season, and that means time to visit your local office-supply chain, discount store, police auction or pawn shop.
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Yes, creative students and their parents are looking far beyond the usual retail outlets if it means saving a few bucks.
"Shocking, I know, but my local farm and ranch store, D&B Supply, has some great deals on back-to- school stuff,” said Joanie Demer, who blogs about bargains as The Krazy Coupon Lady. “To my amazement, I found an incredible, fashion-forward pair of Levi's for only $30, regularly $80. They also carry school supplies. Who knew?”
To be sure, discount and department stores are still the most popular options for back-to-school shopping, according to the National Retail Federation. But 40 percent of households are now doing back-to-school shopping online, according to the trade group, up from 21 percent five years ago. And 14 percent plan to shop at a thrift store or resale shop.
“The acceptability of resale is greater now,” said Cathy Marks, executive VP of Children’s Orchard, a chain of resale shops with 35 locations. “Twenty years ago, people didn’t necessarily want their friends to know they were buying resale.”
Thank to sites like eBay and the general trend toward thriftiness, that is less of a problem now, she said.
Thrift stores also allow parents to buy more fashionable and expensive clothing they could not afford new. “If you’re not getting at least 50 percent off retail you’re not getting a deal,” she said.
Police auctions may be inconvenient, but PropertyRoom.com sells items confiscated by police departments around the country that might be useful for students.
"Students and parents will find impressive savings on Apple and Dell laptops, smartphones, iPods and lightly used bikes,” said P.J. Bellomo, CEO of the 10-year-old auction site.
Pawn shops are another possibility, having gone a long way toward shedding their reputation as the seedy last refuge of the down and out, thanks in part to reality shows such as “Pawn Stars” on History Channel.
“We get a lot of new customers around this time because people want to save money,” said Lawrence Kahlden, president and CEO of La Familia Pawn and Jewelry, a chain of 20 locations in Florida and Puerto Rico that markets heavily to back-to-school shoppers.
Scientific calculators -– which can cost a $200 or more new, are a popular item. And Kahlden said there is no reason for buyers to be concerned about buying hot property.
“(Sellers) have to give an ID and a thumbprint,” said Kahlden. “If you fence some stolen property in a pawnshop you’re busted.”
Daily deal sites are another offbeat option. Jana Francis, founder of The Steal Network, recommended setting up alerts for items or working in tandem with a friend.
“Many sites unveil new sales at a specific time every day. Some run for a few days, while others last just a few hours,” she said.
Bellomo said his inventory changes daily, so shoppers who check the site frequently have the best chance at finding deals.
But make sure to check out the site’s shipping policy.
“While most deal sites sell items faster than you can blink, unfortunately, many of their shipping times are slow as molasses,” she warned.
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