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A sluggish start for back-to-school shopping

Despite August temperatures, it's back-to-school time across much of the U.S.

Twelve states have just wrapped up tax-free weekends for some school-related items. Numerous retailers are also offering great back-to-school deals that go a bit easier on wallets of students and their parents.

But even as the U.S. economy appears to be on the mend, some signs indicate that many shoppers are taking their time when it comes to this year's back-to-school buying.

Back-to-school health tips for parents and kids
Back-to-school health tips for parents and kids

According to a recent survey by Deloitte, less than 40 percent of parents with kids in grades K-12 said they felt a need to stock up on school-related supplies for this shopping season. Nearly one-third said they're going to complete their back-to-school shopping lists later in the school year.

Deloitte also projects that U.S. spending per child in grades K-12 will remain flat this year at just under $1,750, compared to $1,766 in 2014.

"Consumers are sending a message to retailers that says the back-to-school shopping season just isn't that important anymore," Alison Paul, Deloitte vice chairman and retail and distribution sector leader, said in a press statement, "and that could dramatically disrupt an industry that traditionally relies on this defined period for a significant portion of annual sales."

In fact, according to IHS Global Insight, the back-to-school season ranks second only to the end-of-year holiday shopping season as a retail revenue generator. Back-to-school time is also seen as an indicator of consumers' spending moods as people end their summer holidays and get back into their work and school routines.

And IHS noted that despite several strong economic positives -- including more disposal income, lower gas prices and an improving housing market -- many students and their parents are holding out until the pre-holiday season sales start gearing up in October. It also mentioned that so far, no young consumer "must-have" device, clothing item or other gadget has emerged this season.

So, after weaker-than-expected retail sales in June, IHS is projecting this year's back-to-school shopping season will be slightly below 2014's, when it came to about $588 billion -- which in turn was a 4.3 percent increase over the 2013 season.

For the moment, IHS is awarding this year's back-to-school retail sales with a B+.