Consumers "are looking for more bargains," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers.
A council survey found that 54 percent of consumers were focusing on price for back-to-school expenditures this year. Retailers have been busy keeping up with demand, as evidenced by the industry's healthy increase in July sales.
BookFinder.com is a Berkeley-based search engine for new and used books. Its founder and chief executive officer, Anirvan Chatterjee, said the costliness of textbooks these days has made BookFinder.com, which links to 100,000 booksellers, an extremely busy site between August and September. In the first week of August, BookFinder.com enjoyed 22 percent growth in average sales over the same period last year, Chatterjee reported.
Meanwhile, Circuit City surveyed more than
2,300 college students about their needs for going away to college. Seventy-two percent said they "cannot live without" a computer. Fifty-three percent said they "cannot live without" a cell phone. But only 21 percent were sure they would die without a
BARGAINSIBusiness 2television. The electronics retailer is offering free computer checks this month, no matter where you purchased your computer. Take it into a Circuit City outlet, and the retailer will identify any viruses or spyware, clean temporary files, check system memory, clean for dust, and present you with a written report identifying any problems.
Appealing to those who want to organize their dorm rooms is the Container Store, which has four outlets in the Bay Area.
"We can give them a personal shopping experience," spokeswoman Mona Williams said. Container Store "college experts" are available in person at every store or by calling 1-888-CONTAIN. Their expertise includes maximizing space in closets, finding and organizing a study area, organizing laundry and bed linens, and sharing a bathroom with others.
Typical of the convenient products Container Store offers is the $19.99 Mini-Mantle, meant for the bunk or loft bed. It's a small shelf that attaches to a bedpost, whether square or round, and can hold a lamp, clock or glass of water.
Hayward-based retailer Mervyns is also appealing to those students who are outfitting their dorm rooms.
"We sell a sheet and a comforter set that comes in extra long for $59.99. And we sell 'A Bed in a Bag,' a package of bed linens complete for one bed for $79.99," spokeswoman Katie Winter said.
College students also are very happy buying George Foreman grills and Cuisinart sandwich makers at this time of year, Winter said.
Walgreens has just introduced a program for the thrifty computer user. Fifteen hundred of its 5,300 stores across the country will offer ink cartridge refills, black or color, "as good as the original" but about half the price, according to spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce.
To find a Walgreens near you equipped to do this, go to its Web site at http://www.Walgreens.com and type in your ZIP code under "Store Locator." You'll see a list of nearby stores, and the ones that refill cartridges will be indicated by an icon.
Also, you could save money by going to a cartridge-refilling store. Franchises include Emeryville-based Cartridge World and San Jose-based Caboodle Cartridge.
Business Writer Francine Brevetti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 208-6416.