Back-to-school shopping is one of Skeka Hogan’s least enjoyable annual events, though she took care Wednesday to visit discount, department and uniform shops in search of deals and bargains, she said.

“I dread it, but it takes planning,” said Hogan, a Brusly resident who is the mother of 6-year-old twins and a high school teen. “You have to space your shopping out because it’s very expensive.”

Back-to-school shoppers are out today with the idea of seizing some last-minute discounts, tax breaks and bargains on school supplies and uniforms.

Hogan found discounted uniform shirts at a J.C. Penney’s department store for $9.99 and later traveled to Young Fashions Uniform Outfitters to buy school logo patches.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Back-to-School Survey, families of children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $603 on apparel, school supplies and electronics. That’s a decrease from last year’s average of $606. Total spending on grades K-12 is expected to reach $22.8 billion. Combined K-12 and college spending will reach $68.8 billion, the second-biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays, according to the federation.

Hogan’s shopping patterns this year are not unusual, according to the National Retail Federation’s survey.

Department stores are expected to see a surge in back-to-school traffic. According to the survey, 57 percent of back-to-school shoppers will head to a department store, up from 53.9 percent last year.

The majority of back-to-school shoppers plan to make at least one purchase from a discount store (68 percent). But back-to-school shoppers also plan to visit other retail outlets: clothing stores, 48 percent; office supply stores, 38 percent; and electronics stores, 21 percent. More people this year will shop online, 31 percent compared with 30 percent last year.

Shoppers are focused on value this shopping season, and many are using buying restraint because the economy is forcing them to spend less, according to the federation. The impact is that more parents will pick up generic brands and do comparative shopping, the study says.

Other parents, including Sabrina and Troy Robinson, of Baton Rouge, parents of four children, started their “last-minute” shopping Wednesday. “School shopping is not as easy as it sounds. It gets stressful,” Sabrina Robinson said.

According to the federation, more parents, like the Robinsons, this year will start their shopping closer to the beginning of school. Most families will begin shopping three weeks to one month before school starts, though nearly 31 percent will begin their shopping one to two weeks before school starts — up from 24 percent last year, according to the federation.

Local retailers also are noticing shopping trends among customers.

Errin Shaw, store manager for Young Fashions Uniform Outfitters, said, “Parents do a lot of layaways,” beginning July 4 until school starts, she said.

Many shoppers also echo the sentiments of Brusly mom Skeka Hogan, who takes back-to-school shopping seriously. “I have to bargain shop,” she said.

Back-to-school shopping can be expensive, but with a little planning and shopping around at a variety of retailers, parents are sure to find deals on the items they need.

Chante Dionne Warren, a former Advocate reporter, is now a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail .com.