PLATTSBURGH — Debbie Pereau took her two granddaughters shopping for a few back-to-school items this year, just as they always do.

For this grandma from Peru, the only new event to break up the late-August routine was a trip to Aeropostale for the oldest, a fifth-grader at Peru Elementary School, who was just about ready to hit the trendy stores.

Although North Country parents are looking for deals this back-to-school season, many say bargain hunting is their usual approach and not just due to this year’s economic pinch.

Marie King of Malone employed the same cost-saving strategy she has relied on for years — she began her hunt for supplies midway through the summer. She is then able to scope out the best sales for her kids, who are in third and fifth grade at Flanders Elementary School in Malone.



LOOKING FOR SALES

To Cynthia Van Dien of Saranac Lake, the economy is irrelevant when back-to-school rolls around.

“Kids need school supplies, and parents are going to buy them however they can.

Two of her three kids, ages 12 and 7, attend Petrova Elementary. Her youngest has yet to turn 1 but rode through the back-to-school aisles at Target nonetheless.

Megan Simpson of Mooers Forks said her family is cutting down spending, in general, this year.

“Not going for the name brand helps,” she said.

Her fourth-grade daughter didn’t seem to mind, picking up and draping a bright-blue T-shirt from Target over her body, showing it off with a smile.

Discounts and special coupons also ease the difficulty, said Marlene Rollier, assistant manager of Champlain Centre’s Payless Shoe Source.

“A lot of families that would have bought $50 shoes can’t this year, so they’re looking for deals.”

Shoppers are hitting clearance racks harder this year, too. Darbi Lamora, assistant manager at Deb in Champlain Centre said the store has been quieter, in general, this season and parents are hesitant to pay full price.



VARIETY COUNTS

Plattsburgh was a stop on the back-to-school itinerary for a few out-of-towners, including Heidi Diabo, who brought her children to Champlain Centre from just outside Montreal.

“There is better stuff over here than in Canada,” she said. “There’s more variety and the prices are better.”

Mark Gerdes from Roxbury, Vt., also stopped in Plattsburgh this year, a routine destination for his family’s summer shopping.

“We always look for deals because regular prices are such a ripoff,” he said.

Dannemora parents Scott and Kristina O’Neill have experienced busier stores as summer draws to an end and suspect that families have put off doing their shopping.

“Everyone’s waiting to the end,” Mrs. O’Neill said.



NAME BRANDS

Saranac Lake mother Tami Donaldson said being faithful to her budget is particularly important this year.

“I pretty much stick to clearance unless there’s something really special. I compare prices before I shop.”

Although for her youngest, third-grader Robert Stevenson, she frequents Walmart and Target, her older son requires pricier fashions.

“In high school, there is absolutely a pressure for name brands,” said Austin Wood, Donaldson’s 10th-grader.

Parents of teenagers feel those pressures, as well.

“If it’s not name-brand, forget about it,” said Tracy Laflamme of Tupper Lake. “Then we have to spend more money because they want the $50 pair of pants instead of the $20 ones.”

Cherie Williams brought her husband and their three children over from St. Albans, Vt., specifically to look for better deals.

Her two youngest, in third and fifth grades, have not yet asked for brand-name clothes, “but I hear the oldest say she’s not going to fit in (without them),” Williams said, referring to her seventh-grade daughter.

Helping their kids fit in is a responsibility many parents try to take on. But Van Dien said they shouldn’t feel pushed beyond their means.

“If you can afford to get the brand-name clothes, you do. If you can’t afford it, you get what you can afford.”

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