Ali Salazar arrived Saturday at Rogue Valley Mall with Chris Griggs and Brianna Griggs in tow, searching for school clothes.

Ali Salazar arrived Saturday at Rogue Valley Mall with Chris Griggs and Brianna Griggs in tow, searching for school clothes.

Like thousands of families across Jackson County, the Griggses are headed to school in a few days.

Both Chris, a freshman at Crater High School, and Brianna, an eighth-grader at Scenic Middle School, have homeschooled in the past, Salazar said. So the experience was going to be something of a new adventure.

"We're buying cheap," Salazar said. "But that's how we shop in general."

In an era of financial uncertainty, that's been the attitude of many back-to-school shoppers across the country.

The National Retail Federation reported back-to-school shoppers planned to spend $47.5 billion this summer. Researchers at BIGresearch of Worthington, Ohio, interviewed 8,543 consumers and reported families with students between kindergarten and 12th grade will spend an average of $548.72 on school merchandise. That's 7.7 percent less than the $594.24 spent in 2008.

The survey revealed that 62 percent of the families nationwide who have shopping still to do planned to go to discounters. Nearly 45 percent will check out a department store and 31.8 percent will go to a clothing store.

Salazar said school wardrobes for Chris and Brianna have been pieced together over a several weeks.

"We've been looking for sales and deals for a month and a half," she said. "We don't have the money to do it all at once.

"I just get what works. If it's on sale and they like it, we'll get it. They don't focus on name-brand stuff."

When it came to supplies, Salazar was taking a wait-and-see approach.

"We have a big stock of supplies we keep through the year," she said. "Some of the things that are on the list, we're waiting to see if it is actually a necessity."

Lindsey Miller, whose son is a fourth-grader at Lone Pine School, hoped to complete shopping in one day. Of course that depended to some extent on whether mother and child could agree on items.

"My idea of what is stylish is probably not his idea of stylish," Lindsey Miller conceded. "We'll probably go to several stores."

Wendi Smitherman and Scenic Middle School seventh-grader Eric Lehman did most of their shopping early.

"There were other family commitments, so we got an early start," Smitherman said. "Boys don't want to take too long."

According to BIGresearch, shoppers said sales or coupons influenced nearly half (47.8 percent) of their purchases, and shopping venues have changed for some as the result of belt-tightening.

"We cut our budget in half compared to what we normally do," said Genevieve Case, who has a freshman and junior at Cascade Christian High School. "The girls are making wiser choices and paying more attention. They're not buying stuff that isn't necessary. They're not shopping the higher-brand stores, and are looking at the clearance racks."

Lynn Collinsworth, whose daughter, Shelby, will be a junior at North Medford High School, said she took the easy way out this year.

"We sent her away to her grandparents in Tulsa, Okla., and she's been shopping there," Collinsworth said. "We talked about the types of clothes, the pants, shirts and stuff like that before she left. She shops close-out racks, and from the pictures I've been getting on my phone, I would say she's got a lot for the money she's spent."

Collinsworth said supplies aren't that much of an issue.

"We had some stuff left over," she said. "So we're spending quite a bit less than last year on supplies."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.