NYT has this to say about those insane lists that have become the norm:
No actual data about real spending. I think these lists are disguised school fees that, on the one hand, are kinda sorta progressive (the poors don't actually do the list; people who do supply the contents of the list are helping fund those who don't) but on the other hand are just hiding how much school actually costs, which is rarely good for democracy. School fees are anathema in true public education. We need to provide budget for school supplies. But that is not really what I was looking for.
MasterCard SpendingPulse from early in August: http://www.mastercardadvisors.com/modules/news/steady_growth_back_to_school_sales.html
People price shopping on mobile:
Lots of _predictions_ that back to school would be less than last year. In practice, when I went to buy A. sneakers at Nordstroms, they were out of a lot of sizes/styles. Which struck me as more than a little odd.
CR says the data points to a rate rise this month, but he notes that most people are now predicting NOT, largely because data everywhere else in the world is so terrible. (Raising rates in this global environment would exacerbate the already strengthening dollar problem, hurting our manufacturing sector, energy sector and trade deficit.)