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Back-To-School Sales Are Business As Usual, Despite Remote Learning

Back-to-school season is on the busiest shopping seasons of the year. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
Back-to-school season is on the busiest shopping seasons of the year. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Stores load up on backpacks, notebooks, crayons and other back-to-school supplies this time of year.

It’s one of the busiest shopping seasons, behind the winter holidays, and the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants doesn’t see that changing, despite the pandemic.

Some students in Northeast Ohio and across the country will begin the school year by attending school remotely, from home. But they’ll still need school supplies.

“Even if your children are taking classes at home, they're still going to need notebooks and those traditional school related items,” said Alex Boehnke, manager of public affairs for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants. "We fully expected a strong back to school shopping season here in Ohio.”

The National Retail Federation estimates that back-to-school and college spending will reach more than $101 billion this year. Last year the number was about $80 billion.

It's still too early to know exactly what supplies will be needed. Some retailers are making adjustment. 

"Maybe it will be later in the year that they're buying maybe the clothing because for the weeks or the first month it's remote," Boehnke said. "I think you could certainly have instances where maybe those apparel and backpacks and things like that just aren't quite needed to the extent that they normally would be."

The uncertainty didn’t stop Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Bedford from stepping in to help with its annual “Back-to-School Bash” school supply giveaway. Because of the pandemic, the event was turned into a drive-up giveaway.

LaRhonda Caldwell arrived with her two children who are students in the Bedford City School District. Their classes will be virtual for the first nine weeks of this school year.

Caldwell said she still doesn’t know exactly what supplies her children will need for remote learning. 

"As of right now we're not 100 percent for sure, so this is great to prepare the kids, especially when they're doing a lot of things online," Caldwell said. 

Caldwell is not alone in stocking up despite uncertainty. Mt. Calvary gave away about 150 bags of notebooks, folders, crayons and some things you wouldn’t have imagined in previous school supply giveaways: hand sanitizer and masks.

According to Mt. Calvary Pastor Stephen Owens, the church served more students at this back-to-school bash than in most previous years.

“People were very encouraged. They were excited for the fact that we’re still being able to give out to the community. People in the community look forward to us being out here," Owens said. "We knew that the kids would still need notebooks and pens and paper for school even though they’re doing stuff virtually and online. They still need those essential items to be able to make sure that they’re learning well.”

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.