Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With colleges and grade schools going virtual, marketers are trying to come up with ways to pry consumers' wallets open during the back-to-school season.

Between the lines: Retail sales in July came in higher than they were in February, before the pandemic sent stores and restaurants closing en masse, the Commerce Department reported Friday morning.

The big picture: Marketers are keen to convince parents to turn college-bound teens' bedrooms into dorm rooms, kitchens into faux cafeterias, and backyards into recess playgrounds — by buying new stuff from retailers eager to keep the fall shopping season from being a bust.

  • Despite all the factors working against U.S. merchants — like high unemployment and shoppers who are wary of malls — it was the third straight month that retail sales have risen, pointing to robust demand despite an economy that entered a recession in February.
  • "Consumers last month boosted spending on electronics and appliances, health products and restaurant meals," per the WSJ.

The marketing wizardry: While some retailers are still highlighting their backpacks and lunch boxes, forward-thinking competitors are hawking stylish masks, homeschooling supplies, and products to help turn your home into a school — clever taglines included.

  • Target: "Find everything you need for wherever you college."
  • Bed Bath & Beyond has published a guide on "How to design your own 'dorm room' at home." (Suggestions include "create a cohesive look," "express yourself" and check out these desk chairs, lamps and comforters for sale!)
  • Per the NYT: "Kohl’s back-to-school offerings are listed online with the tagline, 'Heading back or logging in, the new year starts here.'"

The bottom line: Enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 a week ended July 31, leaving many Americans with less disposable income. And the extra $300 a week that President Trump aims to deliver will likely take some time to arrive.

  • This means that August retail sales are likely to drop, despite the best efforts of retailers' marketing departments.

Go deeper

Chaos looms as biggest U.S. shipping companies prepare for holiday rush

Pallets with mail-in ballots at a USPS center. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

If you rely on last-minute holiday shopping, 2020 won't be your year.

Why it matters: America's biggest shipping companies are out of excess capacity, and that's before the holiday rush.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

Cuomo: "I am not going to resign"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized Wednesday for acting in a way that made women feel "uncomfortable," but insisted that he has "never touched anyone inappropriately" and said he will not resign.

Driving the news: Cuomo reiterated in his first public appearance since sexual harassment allegations surfaced that he will fully cooperate with a team of independent investigators appointed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, but suggested that demands for his resignation from were simply "politics."