Back-to-school buying continues; Alabama retailers expect robust sales through the end of the year

With more than 200 styles of denim and khaki, Eagle Eye Outfitters in Dothan has the school-approved pants on every students’ list.

Alabama’s back-to-school sales tax holiday kicked off the school buying season in our state, and while Alabama shoppers have been steadily ticking off items on their lists, they still have more buying to do.

Our state’s retailers have what parents need to clothe and equip their children for school and college, plus retailers already have ordered, started to receive and have even put out holiday merchandise.

Alabama consumers spent well over 2019 levels during the July 16-18 sales tax holiday and are expected to maintain that trend as schools open as early as next week in parts of the state. Retailers of all sizes told the Alabama Retail Association that their tax holiday sales beat 2019 levels and greatly surpassed 2020 levels with some reporting as much as a 65% gain in sales that weekend.

Shops, like Wrapsody, have fall merchandise on the floor.

Alabama’s retailers have been experiencing robust sales throughout 2021 and expect the remainder of the third quarter and the fourth quarter holiday shopping period to continue that trend. Some expressed concern about getting enough inventory in to cover demand, while others said they are fully stocked and receiving inventory for most goods in a regular manner. Retailers also continue to hire and advertise job openings with those who are working going full tilt.

According to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics’ annual survey:

  • Nationwide back-to-school spending in 2021 is expected to reach an all-time high of $37.1 billion;
  • Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school items; and
  • College students and their families plan to spend an average of $1,200.32 on college or university items.

Lap desks and nap mats are among the back-to-school happies at Fantasy Island Toys in Fairhope.

Top sellers so far in Alabama have been clothing, shoes and laptops and other electronics, which reflects the national trends as well. In-person classes are fueling the school clothing boom.

The NRF survey indicated that 51% of back-to-school shoppers had begun shopping in early July and only 18% had completed their shopping, waiting for closer to school start dates to get some items.

In June, taxed sales in Alabama were up 12.28% over the same month in 2020, based on the latest Alabama Revenue Department abstract. For the fourth month in a row, total sales and use tax collections in Alabama exceeded $300 million.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal consumption expenditures, the largest part of the U.S. economy, grew an 11.8% annualized rate in the second quarter of 2021. Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food service sales for June grew 18% over June 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Commerce Department reports that household spending increased 1% in June.

Retailers, like Lavish Boutique in Jasper, are ready to help you get ready for school or college. Students will run back to school in style with shoes and outfits from Sikes Shoes and the Jack ‘n Jill Shop in Homewood.

Related articles:
Retail sales continue to lead Alabama’s economic recovery;
gains over 2020 shutdowns ‘off the chart’

Record $14 billion spent during 2020 holidays in Alabama;
sales for all of 2020 grew 7%; 2021 should see similar growth

Nancy King Dennis | 334.551.0643 | 334.868.2195 (c)