Fair week tends to be a quiet one for local retailers, but shopping activity will kick into in high gear for the following six weeks.
This is the time of year when back-to-school sales dominate the economy. In Whatcom County, the third quarter of 2013 was the busiest three months ever in terms of overall retail sales, generating $915.3 million. That's better than the holiday shopping season of the fourth quarter, which came in at $907.9 million in the final three months of 2013.
For some businesses, it's already a busy time. At Launching Success Learning Store, teachers and families are dropping in to stock up, said Jen Zimmermann, who owns the store with Kristen Krumdiack. The store is at 133 Prince Ave., near Meridian Street.
"Those who do homeschool are also starting to come in and do research on what they need for this year," said Zimmermann, adding that her staff is getting plenty of questions about the Common Core State Standard requirements that are being implemented this school year.
Children's consignment stores are also busy this time of year, said Kathy McCrady of Wee Ones Reruns. The James Street store (near Trader Joe's) saw plenty of people bringing in clothes last week, in anticipation for the shopping season. The store was also seeing a fair amount of Canadian customers bringing in their brands of clothes. Trend-wise, leggings and tunics seem to be particularly popular this year, she said.
Even with the economy picking up, McCrady said business at the consignment store is growing. It's a sign that consignment shopping is becoming more of a regular habit for customers, not just a way of saving money during uncertain economic times.
"Kids around here don't seem to care if they have consignment or brand-new clothes," McCrady said.
At the Launching Success, this year customers appear to be more interested in unique products that are more suited to individual students' needs. The store also has plenty of games, as parents continue to find ways to make learning fun, Zimmermann said.
According to the National Retail Federation, the average family with children will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from last year. Overall spending is expected to be down slightly because fewer students are in households this summer.
-- A Bellingham building permit was submitted to do some remodeling at 2124 James St. for Kaur Lounge, which is currently at 1303 Astor St. According to the company's Facebook page, they are expecting to be in the James Street spot sometime this fall.
-- A permit was also submitted to build a two-story office building at 310 E. Magnolia St. (near Aslan Brewing Co.) to replace a one-story structure.
-- Sweet Tooth Dentistry has submitted permits to put in a 5,108-square-foot clinic at 522 W. Bakerview Road, near Bakerview Square.