Posted September 1, 2011 3:40 pm by with 0 comments

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Mother Nature is a powerful lady. Not only can she tear down buildings in a blink of an eye, she can also throw a nation’s economy into a whirl that rivals her worst tornado.

This time around, we lucked out.

Hurricane Irene was kinder than expected which is to take nothing away from the millions of people who are still dealing with the aftermath. With more important things than back-to-school shopping on their minds, consumers stopped spending last weekend and it hurt quite a few stores. There’s no telling what the impact was on small businesses up and down the coast, but large chains including Macy’s and JC Penny both missed their monthly sales goals and they blame it on the storm.

But now the clouds have parted in more ways than one. Looking at the overall retail numbers for August, Reuters reports a 4.4% increase over last year and that’s one for the win column.

Target and Costco both posted greater than expected sales numbers and Target, at least, admits that some of that came from the pre-storm frenzy buying that often accompanies an anticipated disaster.

Overall, the chain stores felt that this was a good start to the final quarter and most expect to see numbers climb in September as folks get back to business as usual — if there is such a thing.

One of the big trends in back-to-school buying is value over price. According to a report by the National Retail Federation, consumers are happy to buy what their kids need, but they want more bang for their buck. A more expensive laptop that comes with a software upgrade and a warranty is better than a price cut on a lesser model.

They also found that consumers are waiting until the last minute to shop, hoping to find a better deal as retailers worry about having too much stock on their shelves. Between the big Labor Day sales and the nearly-here first day of school — this weekend should be a big one for both buyers and sellers.