August 22, 2013

School shopping offers a lesson on the economy

Back-to-school buying has started slowly, and may provide clues about the coming months.

By Jessica Hall
Staff Writer

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Leanne MacKay helps her daughters, Maggie, 13, and Emily, 11, choose backpacks at the L.L. Bean store in Freeport on Tuesday. The family, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, said they are combining their vacation time with back-to-school shopping for clothes and supplies.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Martha Dean of Warwich, R.I., carries an armful of back-to-school items for her son, Josh, 7, at L.L. Bean in Freeport. Dean, who is vacationing in Maine, took advantage of her time here to visit Freeport’s downtown retail center.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Macy's Inc. on Wednesday blamed a disappointing second quarter on consumer reluctance to spend on non-essential items. That has led the store to institute deeper markdowns. The chain's second quarter sales fell 0.8 percent, well below analysts' prediction of a 2.3 percent gain in the quarter.

Aeropostale also warned investors that its second-quarter loss will be 42 cents to 44 cents per share, more than double that of an earlier forecast. Rival retailer American Eagle Outfitters also slashed the outlook for second-quarter earnings.

In light of a disappointing retail outlook nationally, some stores are offering deeper discounts in August. Freeport retailers will benefit from a promotion by Amtrak's Downeaster, which is offering a three-day promotion from Aug. 20-22 in which passengers can leave from any Downeaster location and travel to Freeport for $10 one-way. Up to two children younger than 15 can ride for $5 one-way when accompanied by a $10 adult fare.

The back-to-school promotion is similar to a holiday shopping special the Downeaster ran last year on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional launch of the holiday shopping season.

"Freeport is the perfect place for back to school shopping," said Janet Dutson, executive director of FreeportUSA, the local merchants association.

Chris Cummings, manager of Mexicali Blues in Freeport, said the Downeaster promotion will help bring in more foot traffic and boost sales during the key back-to-school season.

"It seems like a smart promotion. It will help sales for everyone here and allow people from Boston to enjoy the mix of Freeport stores," Cummings said.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:


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