Back-to-school shopping makes a comeback

School is back on for the fall, and so is back-to-school shopping. Mastercard estimates overall retail sales from July to mid-September will climb more than 5% over the same period last year and nearly 7% over 2019. Most of that spending growth can be attributed to outfitting those other growing things — kids.

Back-to-school window displays are returning to Grasshopper, a children’s store in Portland, Oregon.  

“Some cute school bus things, lots of colorful school supplies, notebooks, things like that,” said manager Meagan Ruyle. Notice she didn’t mention backpacks.  

“We would have had to order backpacks for fall in like December or January, and we weren’t sure at the time what the back-to-school season was going to be like,” she said.

There may be more dollars than usual chasing those backpacks, courtesy of the federal government. The newly expanded child tax credit will funnel hundreds of dollars into family bank accounts starting July 15, continuing monthly until the end of the year.

“The majority of Americans aren’t really expecting it, so it should be a pleasant surprise. It just kind of really fuels back-to-school revenues,” said Jen Redding, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

The real stimulus, though, won’t come from the feds. It’ll come from parents dreaming of Zoom meetings uninterrupted by math class.