Some eager retailers are jumping the gun to get shoppers' attention extra early. With good reason: Last year, consumers spent more than $55 billion on back-to-school shopping, the National Retail Federation says. Many retailers are still nervous about consumer spending in a topsy-turvy economy.
That's one reason why Toys R Us' "Pack to School" sale on backpacks and lunchboxes started as early as July 1 in some parts of the country.
"If they can put the sale on and beat the competition to the punch, retailers can get consumers to buy before they normally would," says Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group.
Analysts say back-to-school sales are getting earlier every year. Retailers say the real driver is consumers who keep asking for the sales earlier. "A lot of folks just like to get their shopping done and out of the way," says Jason Shockley, an Office Depot spokesman.