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by Christina Cheddar Berk

Even though the kids have barely gotten settled into the routine at summer camp, in retail land it’s already getting to be that time of year again: back-to-school season.

If you headed out to the mall this weekend to hit the Fourth of July sales, you were likely greeted at the door with a taste of a fall. At Old Navy, for example, quilted jackets and school uniforms were prominently on display. (Nevermind that customers still have many weeks ahead to use any bathing suits they snagged on clearance.)

And the catalogs arriving in the mail from Pottery Barn Kids and other retailers are chock full of backpacks and lunch boxes.

That also means it’s time for analysts to turn in their back-to-school retail sales forecasts.

Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, said Tuesday that he expects back-to-school spending to climb 6.2 percent to $467 billion between July and September from the prior year. If this proves correct, it would be the best back-to-school spending growth since 2006.

Johnson points to several reasons for his optimistic forecast. First, disposable personal income has been on the rise, up 3 percent from last year’s level.

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