Another shortage: Back-to-school shopping gets complicated

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With the new school year just weeks away and in-person classes returning, national retailers say demand for school supplies is higher than ever before.

An estimated $37.1 billion is being spent on back-to-school supplies this year, up from $33.9 billion in 2020.

But that high demand is leading to a shortage of school supplies for both students and teachers.

“I had to drive an hour to come up here to find things,” said Madison Stewart, a first-grade teacher at the Fairfield Union School District in Central Ohio.

Stewart said this will be her first year as an elementary school teacher at Fairfield Union in Lancaster, but said she’s had to spend most of her time driving across town to find classroom materials.

“I mean Target and Amazon are great, but I place an Amazon order and it’s going to take two to three weeks to get here, so it’ll be after the start of school,” Stewart said.

And school supply stores like Terrific Teaching Tools in Gahanna said they’re going through the same thing.

“People are all over having a difficult time finding workers, so our shipments are two to three weeks delayed, but we have good stock right now,” said Barbara Saeman, co-owner of Terrific Teaching Tools.

For 13 years, Barbara Saeman and her husband Martin have been running this local school supply store, but they said this year and the last, have been a real struggle due to the pandemic.

Fortunately, their warehouse is fully stocked, thanks to a late order finally coming in after weeks of delay. But they also credit their customers for being willing to buy their in-store products.

“We make a lot of our own stuff that you can only purchase here,” said Saeman. Which customers like Sandy Eckstine appreciate, saying she often has trouble buying school supplies for her granddaughter with special needs.

“If I don’t find something, they order it for me,” said Eckstine.

National retailers said families with children in elementary through high school, could spend an average of $848 on school items this year alone, which is up $59 from last year.

Speaking of back-to-school shopping, Ohio’s sales tax holiday begins Friday at 12 a.m.

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