LOS ANGELES — As students head back to school and recent graduates start their first jobs, many are using gift registries – long an important feature of weddings and baby showers – to help them nab some of the items they want to set up their dorm rooms and furnish new apartments.
The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond and online retailers with names such as DormSmart.com and DormCo.com are encouraging college students to register and clue in relatives who need help with gift ideas.
“I registered at the Container Store for a bunch of different things for my dorm,” said 18-year-old Andrea Castruita of San Diego, who is starting college in Boston next month. “Then I told my friends and family where I was registered, and if they wanted to get anything they could look at the list.”
The sluggish economy is pushing cash-strapped students and parents to ask Grandma and Grandpa to chip in and buy sheets, backpacks and laptops. Even schools are using the services to get supplies for students.
“For college, you see folks registering for bedding, for storage pieces, towels or robes, and items for the desk,” said Jessica Joyce, a spokeswoman at Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc., based in Union, N.J. “In case anybody wants to give a gift to a graduate for a going-away party, they can go on our site, type in the first and last name, and find ideas.”
The process works much like weddings or baby showers: Students or parents can go online to select desired items, or go into a store and walk through aisles with a scanner to physically choose what they want. Some retailers will even print out cards with links to the registry that can be tucked into invitations to a graduation bash.
DormSmart.com, a dorm supply store, has seen the number of students registering jump 300 percent in the past three years, said CEOChristi Leslie. Leslie said that the sour economy has pushed more college-bound teens to register for items they might have bought, in better times, with their parents or using their own money. Among the bestsellers are tool kits and laundry baskets. “Especially in a tough economy, there seems to be more family participation in buying dorm supplies recently,” Leslie said. “I see frequently that Grandma is ordering, aunts and uncles are ordering and sending to nieces and nephews.”
Tamara Moores, 25, said asking for gifts never crossed her mind in the last months of medical school in Loma Linda, Calif. But then her mom mentioned that their far-flung family members, many of whom planned to see her graduate in May, were eagerly asking for gift ideas. Instead of jewelry – her mother’s suggestion – she registered for about 15 practical items to outfit her new apartment, including a blender, knives, a milk steamer and other kitchenware.
“It’s stuff that is really, really useful that I wouldn’t buy for myself,” said Moores, who just started her training as an emergency room doctor in Salt Lake City. “And it was great for the family members who wanted to give more than money. They knew I would like it.”
Aside from must-haves, some teens get extravagant with wish lists. “Some students ask for flat-screen TVs and Xboxes,” said Jeff Gawronski, founder of DormCo.com. “They tend to kind of go over the top with how much they add.”