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Back-to-school on a budget

Stephanie Fournier can’t stop kids from growing but she can make it a lot cheaper for parents to keep up.

Fournier owns Children’s Orchard at 7501 W. Lake Mead Blvd., one of several stores in Las Vegas that sells name-brand, used clothes and accessories for kids.

The ability to put together quality outfits for kids that cost, in some cases, hundreds of dollars less than new clothes is making stores such as Fournier’s more popular than ever for back-to-school shopping.

Fournier opened the store in February and says so far it is exceeding her expectations and turning a profit.

The inventory is 80 percent gently used and 20 percent new product.

It’s a hot spot for back-to-school because parents not only save money at the cash register, they can bring in any clothes their kids have outgrown and get cash or store credit in return, provided the clothes are in excellent condition.

“They outgrow stuff so fast,” said Fournier, who has three kids. “To be able to sell it and be able to buy great stuff the next size up, it just makes sense.”

She said the average product price in the store, which sells clothes mainly for infants up to junior-high-age kids, is about $5. A typical ticket is about $30.

She rattles off a list of brand-name jeans selling for less than $20 per pair that includes, 7 for All Mankind, Dolce and Gabbana, Z. Cavaricci and Wrangler.

Judging by national retail trends, it appears shoppers are looking for alternatives to the mall.

An Aug. 7 report by research firm TNS Retail Forward said department, consumer electronics and office supply stores are losing ground to discount, dollar and supercenter stores in the competition to lure back-to-school shoppers.

“The summer spike in fuel and food prices is causing shoppers to pare back on their plans for tax rebates and back-to-school spending,” said Frank Badillo, senior economist for the Columbus, Ohio-based firm. “That’s clearly squeezing spending on retail goods other than food and gas.”

According to TNS, 44 percent of shoppers planned to spend the same as they did last year on back-to-school shopping, a 7 percent decrease from the 2007 report.

About 19 percent said they plan to spend less, an increase of 6 percent from last year.

The spending squeeze is showing up in the nation’s stores, where discounters are going wild.

“I have never seen so many summer clothes discounted,” longtime retail consultant Howard Davidowitz told The Wall Street Journal.

Analyst Adrienne Tennant told the paper the bargain hunting that’s peaking during back-to-school season has been going on for months.

“We noted more people bargain hunting the clearance racks and carrying fewer shopping bags than our notes from last year indicate,” Tennant said of in-store observations as long ago as June.

Las Vegas parent Kelli Hunsaker says she saves money by sticking to the list of supplies provided by schools her two boys attend. The lists included glue, paper, pencils and crayons.

“I really don’t buy anything other than that except for new clothes or shoes,” she said.

She goes to Wal-Mart because it is just one stop and sells many products at or near the lowest possible price.

“I definitely spend more at Christmas and birthdays,” she said.

Fumiko MacPherson, owner of a Kid to Kid used clothing store at 8450 W. Sahara Ave., said word-of-mouth accounts of the store she’s co-owned for eight years is paying dividends now that consumers are scrutinizing their spending.

Kid to Kid has trendy Abercrombie jeans for $18.99 and Hollister brand pants for $12.99, she said.

“The people really don’t want to spend too much money for the kids,” MacPherson said. “They are really happy to find out about our store.”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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