Business

Hard to believe, but it’s close to crunch time for back-to-school shopping

Gracie Woolley, a teacher at Madison Elementary in Mount Vernon, browses classroom posters at Launching Success on Wednesday, Aug. 3, in Bellingham.
Gracie Woolley, a teacher at Madison Elementary in Mount Vernon, browses classroom posters at Launching Success on Wednesday, Aug. 3, in Bellingham. eabell@bhamherald.com

It’s getting late earlier than usual for those who need to get back-to-school shopping done.

With public schools in Bellingham set to start Wednesday, Aug. 24, parents and students may feel a bit rushed to get ready, especially if they take the traditional option of waiting until after the Northwest Washington Fair Aug. 15-20.

As of last week, it was still quiet at stores like Kids Northwest with many people still in vacation mode, said Mike Hodgin, who co-owns the store at 1319 Cornwall Ave. with his wife, Janet. He expects that will change soon.

“I expect it (the crowds) to hit late and with a fury,” Hodgin said, adding it will also probably mean stronger sales after school gets started.

Kristen Krumdiack also expects to see a rush of shoppers in the coming weeks at the Launching Success Learning Store at 133 Prince Ave. Activity at the store began picking up last week, which is a little later than usual, she said.

“We are seeing more teachers, but not many parents yet,” she said.

Nationwide experts are projecting continued growth in the back-to-school shopping segment. The National Retail Federation notes that spending should hit $75.8 billion this year, up 55 percent compared with 10 years ago.

Online shopping continues to have an impact on local retailers, but the nature of back-to-school shopping encourages shoppers to go to brick-and-mortar stores. A recent study by Citi Retail Services indicates that 70 percent of parents have increased the percentage of purchase decisions they leave completely up to their child. In that survey, 84 percent of parents believe their child prefers to shop in a physical store, with many believing their children want to try on or test products.

At Kids Northwest, which focuses on clothes and shoes, parents bring in the children to figure out what size fits after a summer of growing, Hodgin said.

“They really want their kids to try shoes on to make sure they will wear them,” Hodgin said, adding that waterproof shoes appear to be popular this year.

At Launching Success, which has school material as well as toys, Krumdiack said the tried-and-true products are doing particularly well early on. She said they try to blunt the growth of online by being service-oriented and answering questions to make the process easier. Her one tip for customers is to make sure they have enough time to complete their shopping. Stores can run out of products quickly when a shopping season is shortened.

“I can see this year being a bit of a crunch for those who wait,” she said.

UPCOMING SEAFOOD EVENT LOOKING FOR GRILLMASTERS

For those who have spent this summer grilling the perfect salmon, you now have a chance to be rewarded for your skills.

The organizers of Bellingham SeaFeast 2016 are looking for competitors for its first International Salmon BBQ Grilling Championship, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 1. The “Skill of the Grill” winning team will bag $1,000. There are also $300, $200 and $100 cash awards for top finishers in the professional and amateur categories. The overall best salmon, as judged by chefs and food industry professionals, will win another $700.

The competition will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at SeaFeast and go in shifts. Space is limited to 12 professional and 12 amateur teams.

There is an entry fee and the deadline to enter is Monday, Aug. 15. To enter and get the details, visit Bellinghamseafeast.com.

SeaFeast organizers are also accepting applications for vendors for its food court. The deadline to submit an online application is Friday, Aug. 12. Any food or beverage vendor can apply, but organizers are looking for ones that have an emphasis on seafood.

This is the first SeaFeast, which will be held Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. It is partially being supported by a grant from the city to celebrate the area’s seafood and maritime industry. It will be held at several locations, including on the waterfront. Events include live local bands, oyster shucking and slurping contest, filleting and cooking demonstrations, and survival suit races.

OTHER TIDBITS

A state liquor license application was submitted for a restaurant to go into the former Black Pearl space at 202 E. Holly St., Suite 117. The proposed business name is Brotha Dudes and the applicants are Briana and Julius Stoker. ... A restaurant liquor license application was also submitted for 330 Cherry St. in Sumas. The proposed name is Rusty Bucket Pub and Grub and the applicants are Peter and Vickie Lo Grande. ... A Bellingham tenant improvement permit was submitted to put in a Super Cuts store in Sunset Square, near Safeway. ... One of Bellingham’s oldest retailers is having an anniversary sale from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10. Yeager’s Sporting Goods is marking 95 years in business by offering 15 to 40 percent off many of its products. The store at 3101 Northwest Ave. was started by Ira Yeager in 1921 initially to sell outboard motors, then grew into a fishing and sporting goods store. Details about the store can be found on its website. ... the Sea Breeze Coffee House at 21 Bellwether Way closed at the end of June, according to a note on the door. A new tenant for that space has not been announced.

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