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by Scott Carlson

Retailers will be paying special attention to sales totals this weekend.

School begins Monday in some South Dakota towns, including Sioux Falls. The shopping for supplies and clothing in preparation for the return to classes usually is a key indicator of economic health for the rest of the year.

That’s true for Sioux Falls-based pharmacy and retailer Lewis Drug.

With record gas prices and rising grocery costs buffeting U.S. consumers, the back-to-school season is shaping up to be more price competitive than ever, said Mark Griffin, the company’s chief executive officer.

“Back to school launches the rest of the year and the holidays,” Griffin said. “If you have a good back-to-school season, then the expectation is that the holidays will be good, as well.”

The National Retail Federation estimates that total U.S. back-to-school and back-to-college spending will reach about $50 billion this year. Although those sales are a distant second to the holiday season – sales reached almost $470 billion last year – retailers consider back-to-school results an important psychological benchmark.

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