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Back-to-school shoppers are finding bargains despite inflation

Big-box retailers are overstocked and are marking down some merchandise

Back to school shopping concept
Photo (c) apomares - Getty Images
Back-to-school shopping is underway, and despite inflation that is running at 9%, shopping at major retailers is producing a surprising number of bargains. Food and gasoline may cost more, but shoes, apparel, electronics, and school supplies are getting marked down.

When it reported second-quarter earnings this week, Walmart disclosed that it is feeling one of the many distortions caused by the pandemic. It aggressively ordered inventory over concerns about supply chain bottlenecks.

The goods arrived in abundance at just about the time consumers shifted from buying products during the pandemic to spending more on services and travel. Walmart executives said that left the retailer with piles of inventory that it will need to mark down to sell.

Good timing for back-to-school shoppers

The timing couldn’t be better for parents who are getting their children ready to return to school. Justice girl T-shirts that usually sell for $17 have been marked down to $6.80.

A refurbished Apple 13.3-inch MacBook Air that was originally priced at $269.99 is now selling for $219. It comes in a bundle that includes a headset, case, and wireless mouse. 

Walmart.com is promoting a big sale on apparel, with savings of up to 60% off. The deals are only available to online shoppers.

Walmart isn’t the only major retailer in the position of having to liquidate merchandise, almost at any price. Target announced in May that it was overstocked in a wide range of inventory, with many items now on sale. Kids' shoes are now 20% off, kids’ jeans have been marked down by 30%, and the retailer is selling school supplies starting at 25 cents.

A package of pencils is 50 cents, and a package of three pens is 99 cents. Binders also start at 99 cents.

Savings on electronics

When it reported earnings this week, Best Buy said its inventory levels are about the same as during the pandemic. But the company said it is seeing slower sales because of inflation and is marking down some items to move them.

A check of the Best Buy website shows that a stainless steel Cuisinart air fryer toaster oven has been marked down by $100, to $129.00 – a discount usually reserved for Black Friday.

The best deals are offered to Best Buy Members, who can save up to $370 on select Windows laptops. Inflation-weary consumers may find other bargains at other stores.

"There are [pricing] problems in apparel, home furnishings, furniture and, to a certain extent, electronics," Neil Saunders, the managing director of GlobalData, told NBC News "Those three areas going to be the ones where you'll see the most discounting."

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