Educated shoppers flock to Downtown discount stores


By Melanie Wallis

With big Downtown department stores promoting back-to-school clothes sales, some parents may find it hard to avoid crowds when shopping for new school gear for their kids.

“There’s been a small rush this week,” said Tameka Tillery, children’s clothes manager at Century 21, at Church and Cortlandt Sts. “School uniforms have been selling like crazy.” Aside from the uniforms, Tillery has noticed certain lines of children’s daywear selling more than others. “All kinds of denim, including jeans and jackets, are selling well, and our European labels. The prep school look is popular,” she added. Tillery said she is expecting the number of shoppers to peak next week, when all the retail stores in New York City will have tax-free week for purchases of $110 or less.

For many parents the back-to-school shopping is a scheduled annual expedition costing hundreds of dollars per child. People come from all over New York to Downtown Manhattan, where they hope to find some bargains at discount stores, such as Century 21.

Rebecca Corado, 9, with her mother, Joy Tuller, from Queens, were in Century 21 shopping for back-to-school gear. Holding a boxed pair of maroon patent-leather shoes, Rebecca looked excited as she pulled items from the clothes racks. Her mother said she usually starts shopping for Rebecca’s school clothes in mid-August. “We’re looking for shirts, shoes and jeans,” Rebecca said.

Amy Zimmerman, from the Upper West Side, was on her own shopping in Century 21 for shoes for her 8-year-old daughter Naomi who attends the Metropolitan Montessori School on W. 85th St. “I buy my daughter shoes twice a year, in autumn and spring. I usually spend $40 to $50 on shoes,” Zimmerman said. It was the first time that Zimmerman had visited the Downtown discount store and said she usually shops for her daughter’s clothes at Gap, Macy’s and H & M.

The other large Downtown store, Syms, at Rector and Greenwich Sts., is also targeting the back-to-school crowd with a three-week “bash,” featuring already discounted merchandise reduced even further. The sale that started on Aug. 17 continuing through Labor Day has already attracted a surge of shoppers. “It’s been exceptionally busy today in the children’s department, and the sale only started yesterday,” said Olga Shor, children’s department assistant. Shor said the children’s section had been far busier than the other areas within the four-floor clothes store.

Syms staff were busily trying to refill racks at 6 p.m. following the rush earlier in the day. Shor said the most popular items were the school uniform, backpacks and casual wear, such as jeans.

Smaller stores, however, have not seen an increase of business. Grace Koh of Koh’s Kids, at Greenwich and Chambers Sts., said that business has been much like ever.

“We don’t have busier times, we just have a steady stream of business all year round,” she said. The boutique store that sells high-end, fashionable and practical clothes has seen sweaters and pull-on pants being the best sellers in the run up to the start of school.