Bless my beloved Nana who, at the beginning of every August, would wake me and my sister up at the unreasonable hour of 8am to go back-to-school shopping.
We always had to be at the mall as soon as the stores opened, both to beat the traffic and the crowds. We were armed with only a few stipulations: she would not venture into any store where the music blared too loud and where obnoxious, cheap, unisex fragrances wafted outside of its store. We also had to carry all the bags; and most importantly, nothing would go to the register if we hadn't tried it on and had it nanny-approved.
This final rule always turned the shopping trip into a full day event. And although I couldn't tell you the ending of a movie I watched a few days ago, I can recall dozens and dozens of garments purchased throughout the years during these excursions.
As a college student, I worked in a big box retailer and experienced back-to-school shopping from a different perspective. It was one of sheer horror, witnessed through the faces of exasperated parents, children and fellow co-workers.
Though it's a far second to holiday shopping, it's still a trip. Ideally, you'd think that the best way to approach back-to-school shopping would be to avoid it entirely. It seems reasonable if these purchases were purely aesthetic, and the only rationale for these annual outings was for kids to have the latest trends for the fall.
Unfortunately, back-to-school shopping is necessary because kids grow so freakishly fast. If there's no way to get out of the activity itself, there are at least techniques to make it less agonizing. Avoiding the malls and finding alternative locations for shopping make these shopping trips simpler.
It's a slippery slope if the goal is to stay local and avoid the Promenade and Woodland Hills malls. As a parent, you'll find the gains are certainly worthwhile. You certainly won't have to deal with the crowds as well as long lines at dressing rooms and registers. In all likelihood you'll also spend less cash. With fewer stores to visit, there's less temptation to keep on shopping and, thus, the spending. And, by avoiding the malls' name-brand stores, you won't have to pay name-brand prices.
It is with that sentiment that you're likely to run into a roadblock. School aged kids want to wear what's "cool," what all the other kids are wearing. This is by no means a byproduct of today's generation; any parent can remember their own youth and how they, too, desperately wanted to be fashionable. I don't know what's hip with the kids these days, but I'm guessing that it's overpriced and sold by mall retailers.
The value placed on what he or she is wearing to school most likely won't reach a child in elementary school, so parents of younger children can take pleasure in the simplicity of the age.
With older kids, it will just take some reasoning. While I do not possess, nor do I ever desire to possess, the abilities to parent, I know how to rationalize clothing purchases.
To stop any war of words over not visiting the mall and its stores, explain to your child that they're still getting cool clothes. And it is no lie. While whatever XYZ brand won't be sprawled across their t-shirts and jeans, the designs, styles and trends will still be represented. If it still doesn't work, hand them some money, drop their sorry ass off at the mall and let them take a solo-shopping trip. Maybe they'll realize that those clothes aren't so special when they only have the funds to purchase a few items.
If and when you get your child, 'tween or teen, to accept your proposal, you then have the issue of where the hell to take them. The number of Tulsa boutiques has grown exponentially since I roamed the high school halls, but the line is clearly drawn. You're more likely to find something to wear from a local boutique if you're under age four or older than age 20(ish). This lack of options is probably because school-aged children don't want to wear clothing from these stores, thereby decreasing demand for these types of specialty shops. Additionally, you'll typically find that boutique prices are higher than your average big box retailers. These higher prices--due to better fabrics, fair labor wages, and exclusivity--are not important when purchasing a child's item that might receive a massive stain the first time it's worn or be outgrown in a few mere months.
So, what is a parent to do? Well, think locally. There's no longer the need to have a massive exodus of surrounding Green County suburbs flocking into Tulsa to shop. Many shopping centers throughout the city offer a variety of options outside of the mall, including local stores and yes, some big box retailers. The latter is like an enemy you can't hide from nor outrun. At least avoiding the mall leaves you with a degree of sanity.
Two of Green County's biggest school districts are Jenks and Owasso. Both Tulsa 'burbs have their own shopping area that provides access to clothing without having to hit the highway. Jenkians (whatever Trojans refer to themselves as) have not only the boutiques that extend along the River Walk but also are close to the new Tulsa Hills shopping center at 71st and I-75.
For citizens of Owasso, while I'm still quite certain they don't actually have a bookstore throughout the entire town, have a lot of other shopping opportunities. Certainly not local by any means, the retailers of the Smith Farm Marketplace at least provide an additional outlet for parents who don't want to deal with traveling to Tulsa and the bustle of a busy shopping mall. All three of these shopping centers provide variety, suiting kids of all ages.
Tulsans can find hotspot shopping centers throughout the city. The Lolly Garden in Utica Square and Gaga-a-Gogo (now located at 1631 E. 15th St.) are two Midtown options for elementary school clothing.
South Tulsans have the Regal Plaza at 105th and Memorial, where the new Lavish Fine Apparel boutique also offers children's garments, in addition to mom attire. And because feet seem to be the fastest growing part of a child, don't forget that you can also get children's shoes locally at Trippets, 2635 S. Harvard Ave. This shoe store has been selling children shoes for decades. You may have even purchased a pair from Trippets as a youngster.
Back-to-school shopping for junior high and high school students reveals the gap that Tulsa has not yet filled when it comes to small, local boutiques. Some boutiques have outfits that would be appropriate for high school juniors and seniors but for exorbitant prices.
With an uneasy economy, parents would likely rather save money for college than spend it on an expensive wardrobe.
But since they have to wear something between now and the time that they step onto a university campus, back-to-school shopping is inevitable.
As the summer winds down and you gather up the kids for the big day, remember that Tulsa offers options outside of those big box conglomerates. With this new approach, both parties can come out happy. Parents will have their sanity while the kiddos can still have a snazzy new wardrobe. And instead of the crowds, high costs and terrible traffic, you can have fond memories of shopping for those outfits that may breed fond memories of school.
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