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Subject to Study

TIMES STAFF WRITER

August is that transitional month for families. While parents still have plenty of time to take their children on vacation or spend weekdays at the beach, there is a faint back-to-school scent in the air.

Kids may be trying to ignore the pending school year, but parents know how quickly the next month can pass. Depending on how many children they have and what grades they are in, the back-to-school crunch can become overwhelming.

Local retailers certainly are aware of this.

Already, school supplies have moved up to the front of major chain stores and the first sales of the season have come and gone. So it’s a good time to begin checking out the merchandise. This week and for the next several weeks we’ll provide guides for back-to-school shopping, starting with school supplies.

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When it comes to buying pencils, pens, erasers and glue, not many parents are going to drive across the county to save a nickel. So we have done minimal price comparisons on those items. Instead we will focus on the unique items kids--or their parents--may want to acquire.

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There is the R2-D2 glue stick at the Target store in Ventura, for instance. Just one of many supplies with the Star Wars theme, the attractive droid, priced at $2.99, serves as a holder for the glue. A pack of two Star Wars pencils and a sharpener was $2.99 and a pack of eight pencils with no sharpener was $1.99.

Star Wars backpacks ($7.99 and $14.99) and pencil pouches ($2.99) were available to round out the intergalactic theme.

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Among the featured items at Target stores throughout the county are binders, school bags and other accessories in olive and khaki, blue and black denim and an attractive Japanese ikebana design. It looks more like clothing than back-to-school displays.

In Ventura, the denim, khaki and olive style messenger bags were $19.99, binders were $12.99, daily planners $9.99 and pencil pouches $2.99 and $3.99. The ikebana style, made of a soft micro fiber, was priced differently: Binders were $14.99, tote bags $12.99, daily planners $6.99 and pencil pouches $2.49.

Other items of note at Target included a mesh hanging locker organizer with mirror, class schedule card, planner and pencil holder for $6.99, a Pokemon pencil sharpener for $2.99 and a box of 64 Crayola crayons for 67 cents. Mead-manufactured one-subject binders were $2.89, three-subject binders were $3.99 and five-subject binders were $4.99.

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The Big K (Kmart) in Moorpark leaves no doubt about the closeness of the school year. Bins of supplies are placed conveniently in front of checkout lines and backpacks hang above shoppers.

What caught our eye, in particular, was the store’s value packs. A three-piece set including a 200-sheet writing tablet and two boxes of 70 envelopes each was $3.99, and a package of 96 Crayola crayons and an 8-ounce bottle of washable glue was priced at $3.49. By itself, a 96 Crayola crayon box was $3.99.

Other items of note included a Picture View Binder by Avery. The three-ring binder has outside pockets to display wallet-size, full-size and 4-by-6-inch photos. It was priced at $6.99. A planner with a cover that looks and feels like a basketball, by Pen-Tab, was priced at $12.99. And an America Online zipper binder, with a disk for 100 free hours of online service, was priced at $7.99.

Backpacks by Northwest Territory were selling for $14.99 to $19.99 and plastic backpacks for young children were priced at $9.99. Also for the younger set, hard plastic lunch boxes were priced at $6.99.

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The Mead binders were selling for $2.89 for one-subject books and $4.99 for three-subject books. We couldn’t find a five-subject binder.

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At Walmart in Oxnard, we got the greatest satisfaction from finding the Classroom in a Box, a set that includes a combination bag-backpack, calculator, day planner and transparent ballpoint pen for $19.97.

The store had a couple of other value packs including a set of two boxes of 64 Crayola crayons and six 2-ounce bottles of kids paint and a brush for $5; and a package of 36 colored pencils, 10 fine-line markers and a pair of erasable highlighters, also for $5.

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Walmart had a whole collection of portfolios including the popular wrestling stars and animal themes, all for 69 cents (which is pretty much the going price all around). A Fuzzy Folder, kind of a black-light ‘60s style portfolio, was priced at $1.47.

Among the more unusual binders, the store was selling three-ring Funky Fur binders, covered in pink or black fur, for $9.97. The store was stocked with a variety of one-, two-, three- and five-subject binders including a Mead three-subject version for $3.57.


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