Experts' CornerNews and Events

Shoppers Gear-Up for the Back-to-School Selling Season

It’s official. The back-to-school shopping season is here. In 2022, spending is expected to reach $34.4 billion for K-12 and $28.3 billion for college-bound students. While inflation remains top-of-mind for shoppers, concerns about high prices have not prevented them from purchasing school-related supplies. According to the 2022 Deloitte Back to School survey, spending is projected to increase 8 percent—a new high. “Back-to-school is the second biggest season for retailers and is often looked at as an early indicator of retail momentum ahead of the traditional holiday season,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard. 

  • Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents plan to spend more than last year
  • Sixty-three percent of shoppers are concerned about out-of-stock items
  • Seventy-seven percent of shoppers will switch brands if prices are too high or the thing is 
  • out –of stock

Shoppers Plan to Start Early 
Like other shopping seasons, people plan to get an early start to take advantage of the best deals. The NRF Back-to-School Spending survey found that 68 percent of consumers have noticed that prices are higher–especially for clothing, accessories, and school supplies. While momentum picked up in mid-July due to Amazon Prime Day, most of those surveyed (85 percent) have more shopping since they don’t know what they will need and are hoping for better deals. The season will begin to wind down in early September.

“We are seeing real shifts in the way people are shopping and spending on back-to-class items since before the pandemic. As a result, retailers are also shifting by bringing in inventory earlier and extending back-to-class offerings,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said.

Consumers Enjoy the In-Store Experience
When shopping for back-to-school items, consumers want to see, feel and try them on for size. Going from store to store is an experience that is challenging but also rewarding when shoppers save money and successfully finish the task. This pattern is good news for department stores, which continue to rebound after 15 months of consistent growth. Forty-nine percent of Deloitte Back-to-School survey respondents plan to shop in-store rather than online—up 6 percent from 2021.

  • Return to store is expected to grow 8.2 percent year-over-year (YOY)
  • Back to school is projected to drive the department store sector up 13 percent YOY
  • Seventy-seven percent of shoppers are likely to use credit cards to make purchases

“Even as economic and inflationary pressures sit top of mind, parents seem resilient and determined to ensure their children get the supplies needed to succeed this coming year. Retailers that remain conscious of this determination, while being mindful to address shopper’s ongoing economic concerns, could earn trust and position themselves strongly,” says Nick Handrinos, vice chair and U.S. leader, Retail, Wholesale & Distribution, and Consumer Products at Deloitte.

Simple Ways to Promote Back-to-School
Hardware stores may not be the first place shoppers think of for back-to-school merchandise, so it’s up to store owners to promote their assortments. Posting sales on social media and the businesses’ websites is an excellent place to start since they connect to shoppers in real-time. In addition to the products brought in specifically for the season, increase the transaction size by promoting items for college dorms such as storage bins, irons, mops, pails, rubber gloves, and dusting cloths. Cleaning supplies, organizational products, and small appliances are products most stores already stock.

In addition to posting on social media, send customers an email to promote your store as a destination for back-to-school supplies. It’s easier to sell products to people who already shop your business and know your services and merchandise assortments. Offer them a special discount for a limited time to create excitement and a sense of urgency.

Set up an end-cap or bright display showcasing back-to-school merchandise to make it convenient for customers to make their selections. Add a brightly colored school-themed sign to get attention. Place impulse items near the checkout that students and parents often overlook—batteries, power packs, phone cords, and accessories are affordable essentials that generate last-minute sales. If you’re new to promoting the back-to-school season, give it a try. Retailers should explore opportunities to attract new business and strengthen existing customer relationships. 

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