SIKESTON -- Standing in an aisle of school supplies amidst other parents and children, Sabrina Banks was concentrating hard on her son's school supply list she'd picked up when she entered the store.
"It seems like the list gets longer each year," laughed Banks about her son's supply list. "And it adds up."
With her Tuesday afternoon free, Banks thought it would be the perfect time to take her son, Tyrell Banks who is entering the fourth grade at Scott County Elementary School this year, shopping for back-to-school supplies.
"We've already done the clothes shopping and now we're doing the supplies," Banks said. "Oh, and we have to get a backpack, too. He wants Incredible Hulk."
Banks' other son, Tyes Banks, was also along for the shopping experience. He's 4, and he wants an Incredible Hulk backpack, too, Banks said.
While back-to-school shopping can be a little overwhelming and somewhat expensive, it's also one of the bigger seasons for the retail industry.
According to the National Retail Federation survey, consumers spend over $14 billion on back-to-school merchandise.
Midwestern families with school-aged children are expected to spend an average of about $430 on back-to-school supplies compared to the national average of $450, up from $441 in 2002, the survey says.
NRF partially credits the boost in back-to-school spending to the $13 billion in tax credit checks that are being sent to more than 25 million families.
Generally, stores begin promoting back-to-school items toward the end of July. Office Max in Sikeston began selling their back-to-school items July 26, said LaShonda Howard, Office Max customer service supervisor.
"We're selling a lot of computers," Howard said. "This is the first year, we've had laptops available here and many of the high school and college students are buying them."
Locker mates are always a best-seller, Howard noted. They come in different colors, and they're just an extra organizer or shelf students can put in their locker, she explained.
Howard said the store must stock varieties of items when it comes to notebooks and folders. "Many teachers require certain colors of folders. Red is a popular color," she said.
Characters such as Care Bears, Nemo, Spiderman, Dora the Explorer and Barbie also grace the covers of lunch boxes, book bags and folders, but the most popular character among all ages seems to be Sponge Bob Square Pants, Howard said.
"I don't know why, but everybody wants Sponge Bob," Howard pondered.
In addition to the traditional binders, crayons, pencils and glue, customers are also purchasing organizers, voice recorders, filler paper and wheel cart deluxe organizer backpacks.
Sikeston J.C. Penney Store Manager Mike Burchett agreed wheel cart backpacks are very popular.
"The new thing this year is the wheel backpacks," Burchett said. "They're available in all sizes and for all age groups."
Next to Christmas, the back-to-school season is the biggest season for J.C. Penney in Sikeston, Burchett said.
"It's extremely busy," Burchett said. "We really started our back-to-school promotions at the first of last week, and we've definitely noticed more traffic flow."
Jeans, novelty T-shirts and shirts are the most popular clothing items being sold, Burchett said. Athletic shoes are the No. 1 shoe being sold, he said, adding that bedding, such as sheets and comforters are selling a lot with the college students.
David Friedman, manager of Falkoff's Men's Shop, said walking shorts, knit shirts and casual slacks are popular with the male population. Another trend among college men has been the sport coats and blazers, he added.
"We've been very busy," noted Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores Manager Lisa Neumeyer. "We've seen a lot of people come out buying clothing and shoes. They've been buying lots of jeans."
Meanwhile, back in the school supplies section, Banks and her sons' trip has almost come to an end. Her cart full of crayons, pencils, folders, a school box, etc., the trio has made it to the backpack display.
"You can't get it all done in one day," Banks assured. "It takes at least a couple of trips to get everything done. It's hectic -- That's why we came during the week."