Selling More Than Back to School Supplies

Every parent with, or who has had, school age children knows the challenges of Back-To-School (BTS) shopping. Depending on the retailer and how they arrange the BTS portion of their sales floor, it can be somewhat of a madhouse. On top of the parents who are trying to read lists, debating whether or not they’re actually going to buy everything on it and the children that are “requesting” something different, the latest greatest or the cool things, there is also the simple disorganization of cramming so many products into a usually too small space.

In those moments when you’re observing this situation, it should dawn on you: there’s more to sell than just the BTS supplies. You can sell organization, the idea of reducing daily stress and, of course, school supplies in a simplified manner. When you consider the sometimes quite frustrated and aggravated parents (who are your consumers) who are trying to get what’s on their list, you must realize that part of their angst is what’s going on behind the scenes at home. They are either quite excited about the fact their kids are going back to school; quite upset that summer is coming to an end and/or some mix of both. They may also be thinking about how hectic school day mornings can be and dreading that onslaught of often chaotic activity.

It can be quite beneficial to have a couple of employee “specialists” to work in the BTS area of your store. Those specialists should be well versed in things like…

  • How to organize bedroom closets to make it easier for kids to pick out clothes and shoes.
  • How to organize hall closets or laundry spaces to keep everything (like backpacks, hats, coats, gloves, etc) arranged for easy grab-and-go use.
  • What can be done with all those clutter items you need to clean out of those closets (or out from under the kids’ beds) as you clean up the summer mess in preparation for the school season.

The organization of closets is fairly simple but goes beyond the consumer buying BTS supplies. It involves your employee specialist being familiar with shelving and other storage units, bins, stackable units and more. Having your specialist available to provide such guidance or advice also puts them in the prime space to sell organizational products to store and easily locate those Back-To-School items not only for this year but for the years to come. After all, some BTS items (like paper and pencils) don’t have an expiration date and are required year after year.

Hangers and hooks for coats and backpacks are an easy sell and can be sold in single units or in designs that incorporate a half-dozen. We often make the mistake of thinking, “No one has half-a-dozen kids,” because organization isn’t JUST about the kids, is it? They tend to do (a little easier, with less prompting) that which they see their parents and older siblings doing. Your consumer may only have two or three children, but that leaves four or five people in the house (assuming a traditional household). Don’t think about BTS shopping as just about the students, but leverage it to sell whole house organization or reorganization to make the current (and future) school years easier.

By supporting such organizational product sales and helping/coaching the parents into proper use of it, it’s also easy to add the “less stress” into any sales presentation. When the parent/consumer can be shown how to organize in such a way that their children can more easily and quickly grab what is necessary each day, then the school day morning stress can be reduced or minimized. After all, nothing ruins Friday morning quite like, “Mom!! I can’t find my lunch box!” when mom is already running late getting the kids to the bus stop and off to work herself. Nothing ruins Monday morning quite like finding Friday’s lunch still in junior’s backpack.

So, as we see school starting this year, start planning for next year and do it in a not-so-traditional way. Don’t JUST focus on the BTS supplies but also on the services, by way of advice and guidance, your “BTS Specialist” employees can provide.


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