The back to school season has bombed for retailers. In several parts of the country, kids are already back to school, and in others, they'll be back over the next 2 weeks or so. But enough early numbers are in to paint a very scary picture...and back to school is the best indicator retailers have of Christmas sales.

The retail market has become so hyper-competitive that some office supply superstores are selling items for 1 cent, according to The Los Angeles Times.

To make the market even tougher, Wal-Mart is doing a promo campaign that, on like item to like item, they'll charge you half of what the office super stores will for back to school supplies.

The best way to learn of all the deals at retail is to buy the Sunday newspaper with its glossy sales circulars. ShopLocal.com is another good alternative.

In yet another indication of how difficult the market is, Sam's Club has been sending e-mails to prompt customers to upgrade their memberships from standard to Plus. Plus members get select items at cheaper prices than regular members.

Meanwhile, a quick update on electronics in the marketplace. Clark has been seeing traditional laptops for $279 at select retailers. Another deal he's seen is 42-inch 720p plasma TVs for $499. 720 p means they won't be great with Blu-ray DVDs, but they will be good for regular hi-def TV viewing.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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