Retail Braces for Back-to-School Blues

Back to school is shaping up to mean back to basics -- and that could spell back to the drawing board for the retail sector.

While investors have been eagerly awaiting the back-to-school season, hoping it will spur consumer shopping, new evidence suggests they may be disappointed.

According to a Deloitte survey released today, 64% of shoppers plan to spend less on back-to-school items due to economic fears, along with higher prices for gas, food and home energy.

Apparel will be hit the hardest, with a whopping 81% saying they will pare down purchases. This doesn't bode well for specialty retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) and American Eagle Outfitters ( AEO), with the bulk of their businesses relying on the all-important shopping season.

And while retailers are attempting to wean consumers off sale items, shoppers are not biting. About 74% of those surveyed said they will be waiting for sales.

Shoppers -- about 39% of them -- are also skimping on paper, pencils and notebooks, and only 29% cited office supply stores are their go-to destination. This means Staples ( SPLS), OfficeMax ( OMX) and Office Depot ( ODP) could be facing a hard school-year.

There will be some winners during back-to-school, most notably discounters like Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT), Target ( TGT) and Costco Wholesale ( COST). About 90% of those surveyed said they would do the bulk of their shopping at discounters and value department stores, while 40% will go to dollar stores like 99 Cents Only Stores ( NDN).

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