Retailers this back-to-school shopping season are willing to offer anything from free flu shots to cheap glue sticks to lure customers.
The largest shopping season next to the Christmas holidays is already in full swing, and retailers are hoping to get a piece of the $83.8 billion windfall projected by the National Retail Federation, or NRF.
Everyone from Staples to Target to Walmart is rolling out huge lines of new promotions to fill kids' backpacks with everything from 88-cent rubber band balls to new Google Nexus tablets.
Retailers want to hook consumers before anxiety over the economy worsens, say marketing gurus.
"If there's money out there to be had, they feel like they need to get it now in case months from now people aren't feeling so fabulous," says Wendy Liebmann, CEO of consulting group WSL Strategic Retail.
Parents are planning to spend more than ever on back-to-school products this year, according to NRF, a sharp turnaround from last year's belt-tightening. Average electronics budgets are at an all-time high at $217.88, and a record 39.6% of shoppers plan to find their deals online.
Some summer savings include:
•Binder buyback. At Staples, kids can exchange last year's Dumpster-ready binders for a $2 discount on new ones as part of Staples Recycle a Binder and Save program.
•88-cent deals. Walmart launched an 88-cent section aimed at both teachers and students, boasting a broad range of school supplies from jumbo paperclips to rubber band balls.
"This is an all-new program, and a large majority of these products are new for this year," says Danit Marquardt, communications director for Walmart.
•A blacker Friday. Target stretched its annual Black Friday in July into two days across July 20 to July 21. The online-only sale included apparel and electronics, but no pens and pencils.
•'Tis the season. Seasonal aisles at CVS will be piled high with school supplies. Participants in the ExtraCare program can get ExtraBucks back on Caliber and select Mead and Crayola products.
•Out sick? Members of Kmart's Shop Your Way program who spend over $100 on select purchases will get Speedway gas discounts and free flu shots to help get their kids back to school and keep them there.