Retail Tipsheet: Stores ready for early start to back-to-school shopping

The Bellingham Herald

Summer can be fleeting, but this year many parents will find the school year sneaking up even faster.

In some school districts the first day of class has moved up. In the Bellingham School District, for example, the first day is Wednesday, Aug. 26, well before the usual post- Labor Day weekend start. It could make for an interesting back-to-school shopping season for local retailers.

Right now there’s a bit of denial taking place.

“What we are getting is a lot of people saying they want to hang on to summer and are not thinking about school yet,” said Jen Zimmerman. She’s the co-owner of Launching Success Learning Store in Bellingham.

Once people turn the calendar to August and realize school is just a few weeks away, shopping for school clothes and supplies will begin in earnest, said Mike Hodgin of Kids Northwest. Lately Mike and his wife, Janet, are busy making sure all of their back-to-school products arrive on time. They also are gearing up for the store’s 23rd anniversary sale that will happen the week of Aug. 17.

Some parents already have started shopping for consignment clothes, but many more are bringing in stuff, said Kathy McCrady of Wee Ones Reruns. By the beginning of August she’s expecting children to be packing the dressing rooms, trying on clothes. Like most years, the earlier that consignors bring in clothes prior to school starting, the more money they’ll make, she said. It’s also an advantage to shop early in consignment stores, because the stores will tend to have more selection.

Heading into the school year, McCrady said she’s noticed a changing trend for boys: More often boys are buying the button-up shirts instead of the typical sweatshirts and T-shirts. For girls, leggings, jeans, tunics and long tops remain popular, McCrady said.

Conflicting national reports make it unclear how busy retailers will be across the U.S. this year. In Whatcom County, overall sales are expected to be lower because of the weaker Canadian dollar, but that may not be the case for some local stores. Kids Northwest is having a strong year so far in terms of sales, and it continues to attract Canadian shoppers, Mike Hodgin said.

“The comments I hear are they come for the experience,” Hodgin said. “So we see them in downtown where they find more local flavor than at the the malls.”

When it comes to school supplies for teachers and students, things really get busy around the time of the Northwest Washington Fair. Teachers tend to shop for items to decorate classrooms as well as for those that help individual students. Parents who homeschool their children tend to shop for activities and products that go beyond basic education. Launching Success recently started opening Sundays, which should help during the upcoming busy months of August and September.


Film Is Truth has decided on a new location and will remain in the downtown district.

The video rental store that is transitioning into a nonprofit organization will be moving to the Public Market building at 1530 Cornwall Ave. The move will start sometime in September, once renovations are complete.

The organization is currently at 211 W. Holly St., where it’s been for more than a decade.

A factor in choosing the public market is that it will allow the organization to work in a community-oriented setting promoting an appreciation of film, according to a news release. The move also gives customers access to more free parking spaces.

“Finding parking can be frustrating,” said Karl Freske, Film Is Truth’s co-founder, in the news release. “I’m pleased that we’ll be able to offer a large amount of free parking spaces for our customers and still remain downtown.

The organization has a catalog of more than 17,000 movies on DVD, Blu-ray and VHS. For details on the organization, visit its Facebook page.


Sustainable Connections is accepting vendor applications for the Commercial Street Night Market, the winning idea from Bellingham’s KAPOW! competition. The night market will take place every Friday from Sept. 4 through Oct. 2 at 1300 Commercial St., in the plaza at the Parkade. For details, visit the website ... A state liquor license application was submitted for a restaurant called Toakom Asian Bistro at 1255 Barkley Blvd., near the Lowe’s home improvement center. The applicants are Vittaya Thammarat and Yubphaluk Saeteurn. ... A building permit application was filed to put in a wholesale liquor store at 2106 Pacific St., called Young’s Market.

Reach Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or