School shopping is different this year for New York toy store

“My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy. After the pandemic forced many schools to pivot to remote teaching, millions of students across the […]

“My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.

After the pandemic forced many schools to pivot to remote teaching, millions of students across the U.S. are headed back to in-person classes for this school year.

The back-to-school season usually generates big business for retailers. For 2021, consumers are expected to spend $32.5 billion, up about 17% from 2019, according to a report from Deloitte. While consumers are spending more on technology and COVID-19 related products, spending fell for traditional school supplies, clothing and accessories.

Jennifer Bergman owns West Side Kids, a specialty toy store on the Upper West Side of New York City.

“My mother opened West Side Kids in 1981, and we carry everything from Lego, and dolls, and arts and crafts, and science and baby toys, and our clients are parents and grandparents from all walks of life,” Bergman said.

Bergman said in spring of 2020, business was struggling, and she had concerns about whether her store would survive.

“But then by the fall, things were a little better. I was feeling a little bit more optimistic,” Bergman said.

The back-to-school shopping in the fall usually brings in more business for Bergman’s store, and during that time, she said she sells school supplies and other related products.

“I feel like the only thing we can do is be thankful for the business that we do have,” Jennifer Bergman says. (Photo courtesy Bergman)

“Now, we would be selling a lot of like fun pencils and fidget toys and just sort of, you know, the fun things that kids like to take to school,” Bergman said. “And then in September, it’s a big birthday month, and so we would have really, really busy weekends selling birthday presents.”

Bergman said this back-to-school season is different than previous years. She’s noticing slower sales and fewer kids coming into the store.  

“We actually aren’t selling that many backpacks and lunch bags and school supplies that we have. There isn’t that back-to-school energy in the city yet,” Bergman said. “I think everyone is very hesitant and worried.”

While she has her concerns regarding the delta variant, Bergman said she’s more optimistic about business than last year.

“I really have to have a positive outlook,” Bergman said. “I feel like the only thing we can do is be thankful for the business that we do have. So I’m keeping my store full of toys, and we’ll just go from there.”

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