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by Kavita Kumar

St. Louis, MO – Last year, many families tightened their purse strings when it came to back-to-school shopping.

Retailers are hoping it’s a different story this year.

“People did reuse certain supplies last year that they can’t get away with reusing this year,” said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman with the National Retail Federation. “So some consumers will come out of hiding a little bit this year.”

The average American family is expected to spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics this year, compared with $548.72 last year and $594.24 in 2008, according to surveys conducted for the federation.

And the International Council of Shopping Centers is forecasting a 5.4 percent increase in back-to-school sales after a 2.8 percent drop last year. But other analysts are predicting more modest gains this season.

“Retailers are being cautiously optimistic,” Grannis said. “They’re not running out to celebrate the consumer’s return right now. … We know families are looking for coupons, are looking for every bargain they can, and are stocking up on generics.”

In many states, families can save money on back-to-school shopping by taking advantage of sales-tax holidays.

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