SHOPTALK : Savings and Selection Abound for the Back-to-School Crowd : Sales at area malls include everything from shoes to backpacks, denim to calculators.


If you’d “rather be saling"--to quote an old bumper sticker--then head to Ventura County malls.

What we found when we staked out the malls recently were not only back-to-school sales but also fall preview sales, summer clearance sales, plain old sale sales, and a bunch of other reasons for marking down prices. Let’s just say it was kind of a bargain hunter’s paradise.

But amid all that, we did try our best to stick to our goal of locating merchandise specifically on sale, or prominently displayed, as back-to-school stuff.

We went to The Oaks in Thousand Oaks, the Esplanade in Oxnard and the Buenaventura Mall in Ventura. And here’s what we found. Keep in mind that sales, and available stock, come and go pretty quickly this time of year.


First stop, The Oaks. What impressed us there was an abundance of nice-looking, quality backpacks for school.

Miller’s Outpost had a Jansport backpack sale scheduled to last through Saturday. We found a regularly priced $30 nylon pack marked down 40%, and a $45 nylon-suede pack discounted 20%. (The Miller’s Outpost at the Buenaventura Mall had 20% off all Jansport packs.)

The largest selection of backpacks at The Oaks was at Oshman’s Sporting Goods store, though the prices were somewhat higher in the Jansport models. The store had a nice supply of Eastpak packs, with the lowest priced at $29.99. Oshman’s, by the way, has a random drawing contest for a “year’s supply” (limit five pairs) of shoes for your child. Deadline to enter is Sept. 30.

Speaking of shoes, over at the Stride Rite shoe store they have a sale on sizes 5 to about 8, with most pairs tagged for $19.95-$24.95, $10-$15 off the usual price.


And the 5-7-9 shop (also found at The Esplanade) has a 40%-off sale on girls clothes (sizes 0-9) scheduled to last through the end of this week.

On to the Buenaventura Mall. We were pretty excited to find a back-to-school sale at Footaction USA, with prices cut 20% to 40% on name-brand shoes like Nike and Reebok. We found a pair of Nike Airs for $49.88, down from $84.99. This sale is supposed to last through Sept. 5.

Perhaps our favorite sale of the mall tour was at Radio Shack, which has outlets at all three malls. The store offers back-to-school electronics packages for elementary, high school and college students.

The “L-M-N-tary Pack” includes a pencil box/calculator, a cordless pencil sharpener, an AM/FM radio with earphone, four C batteries, and two AA batteries. It sells for $25, instead of the $30.85 if the items were sold separately.


Finally, we dropped in at The Esplanade, where the highlight last week was a 25% to 50% off sale on a variety of clothing at Kids Mart. We hesitate to mention that because the sale is over. But we were told that this week you can expect a discount on denim items.

As for school accessories, the Payless ShoeSource (also at the Buenaventura Mall) had a cute little plastic Crayola Carry Bag, with four Crayola crayons, discounted from $7.99 to $5--not earth shattering, but cute.

And in all this mall talk let’s not forget that J.C. Penney (The Oaks, Buenaventura) and Sears (The Oaks, Esplanade) will be having back-to-school sales throughout the month.

We realize that getting your kids ready for school may seem more daunting than it was to attend school yourself. Next week we hope to alleviate some of that pain by comparing prices on school essentials like notebooks, pencil bags and lunch boxes.