Back to School Promises to Be a Bright Spot for Retail
Although most consumers are deep into summer vacations, moms across America are already thinking about what their kids will need for the next school year. Analysts are predicting the back to school season will be a bright spot for retailers who have had a disappointing 2016, but warn that one sunny season won’t cure the bigger challenges retailers face—economic uncertainty, changing consumption patterns that are driving more apparel and electronics sales online, or the growth of other product categories such as automobiles and experiences. A look at the opportunities for retailers and brands during back-to-school season.
Two Schools of Thought
The back-to-school season is comprised of two distinct shopping occasions with different purchasing needs: back-to-school and back-to-college. Last year, parents of K-12 students spent roughly $13 billion on apparel and shoes and close to $8 billion on electronics and computer equipment. In contrast, back-to-college shoppers spent considerably less, only about $10 billion on apparel and shoes, and more on electronics and a variety of college-specific categories including bedding and other dorm furnishings.
Pinterest, the Barometer of Back-to-School Shopping
Activity on Pinterest serves as a good indicator of when consumers begin to think about back-to-school shopping, with some shoppers beginning to plan their purchases as early as May. For back-to-college shoppers, pinning begins in May, dips in June and July, and surges at the end of July into August when students return to colleges and universities. Parents of K-12 students begin their searches for supplies, children’s clothing, and accessories in the first half of August, followed by a second spike in early September for teen and young adult clothing. Predictably, teens return to school to find out what the popular crowd is wearing, go online to research where to find it, and then buy. When planning their back-to-school strategy, brands should build a foundation of brand awareness early in the season and shift messaging and targeting in the late summer as students prepare to return to the classroom.
Although parents of K-12 shoppers research products using mobile devices, the majority of purchases are made in-store. Researchers found that for college-bound shoppers, however, the convenience of having purchases delivered directly to the student’s dorm was driving e-commerce across all product categories. In lieu of dorm delivery, some retailers are experimenting with other fulfilment options geared toward the college market, such as holding items in a local store until a student arrives, or future-date shipping.
Smart brands understand the buying process begins long before the first school bell rings and develop their marketing plans accordingly. Women’s Marketing offers strategic media planning services and deep insights into the buying power of women. Contact us today to learn how we can help your brand reach back-to-school shoppers with the right message delivered at the right time.