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Going back-to-school in style

Many retailers looking to earn more than just college credits this back-to-campus season are expanding the definition of what is included in college-bound students' shopping carts.

Perhaps hoping to tap into the do-it-yourself décor fever triggered by cable TV programming, retailers are offering a broader array of price points — sometimes running into the hundreds of dollars for single items.

Although back to school is a side topic on JCPenney's home page — which features the retailer's semi-annual home sale — its "Campus Shop" section stretches the meaning of the types of products college students need to stock up on for the school year. Its check list includes 18 categories of home textiles products, including window coverings.

In addition to the usual assortment of bath towels and extra-long twin sheeting, Penney's Campus Shop offers slipcovers, furniture pieces and even a room-size $879 area rug.

Target seems to be capitalizing on the dorm-décor trend, taking it to an all-customer-inclusive level. Its "Do Your Room" shop, positioned front-and-center on its Web site, encourages shoppers to redo any and all of their nine possible rooms — from nurseries to kitchens to college dorms. Under the "Do Your Dorm" option checklist, the discounter includes two pricey area rugs — a $399 black flokati and a $639.99 varsity-striped rectangular braid.

The "Survival 101" guide featuring "dorm room decorating ideas for the coolest room on campus" on Bed Bath & Beyond's Web site includes $49.99 Nautica fabric shower curtains and $99.99 black leather decorative pillows.

Even at Wal-Mart's "Campus Cool" shop online, where the retailer for the most part sticks to its promise to offer back-to-college goods "for less," there is a throw rug priced at $48.43 — representing the highest priced single textile item the discounter offers for this selling season online.

Linens 'n Things "Destination Dorm" shop centers on high-tech sound systems and other electronics for the college-bound customer. But its textiles assortment is extensive, with emphasis on fashion and middle-ground price points.

But not every retailer is attempting to push the envelope on back-to-school pricing, based on assortments.

Sears.com makes its focus high-tech electronics, with only a very slight offering of soft dorm-décor items on its checklist: one of each of the following — sheet sets, comforter sets, bed-in-a-bag sets, blankets, pillows sets, mattress topper, down comforter sets and duvet cover. No bath towels, accessories, shower curtains or rugs for college students are included on the list, nor are rugs.

Similarly, Kohl's encourages students to "add some class" to their rooms in its Student Lounge section, and yet only offers a tightly edited selection of bed and bath items: four types of towels and three types of solid-color sheet sets. In other categories, the Student Lounge offers one comforter set, foam bed topper, bath rug and a glazed-stoneware bath-accessories set. Its most robust textiles offering for campus life appears in the rug assortment: 22 designs in a variety of sizes.

Kmart created no dorm shop, per se. Instead, its hope page carries a tag, "Do the dorm," that links browsers to existing pages for bed-in-a-bag sets, futons, beanbags and microwaves.

Sears' prices

Product High Low
Sheets sets $69.99 $19.99
Comforter sets 59.99 49.99
Sears' back-to-school shop contained no other home textiles skus. Source: www.sears.com


JCPenney's prices

Product High Low
Sheets sets $59.99 $8.99
Comforter sets 140.00 NA
Bed-in-a-bag 89.99 59.99
Bath towel 14.99 2.49
Shower curtain 39.99 19.99
Bath Acces. 129.99 9.99
Rugs/Mats 69.99 8.99
Rugs 879.00 11.99
Dec. Pillows 40.00 12.99
Throws NA NA
Source: www.jcpenney.com


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