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Retailers: Don't Be Late For School Shopping

Posted by Kris Coughtry | Wed, Jul 24, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

back-to-school shoppingBack-to-school shopping is the second biggest retail event of the year, with holiday shopping being number one. The competition for back-to-school-dollars comes from department stores, office supply stores, warehouse stores, fashion boutiques and specialty stores and each is vying for their piece of the $26.7 billion pie. Add in back-to-college spending and the total may exceed $70 billion this year!

Families are expected to spend over $600 on average

The economy is still a concern for families and students. Though last year was a banner year for back-to-school shopping, spending is predicted to be down a bit in 2013, according to the Back-to-School Spending survey sponsored by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The NRF is expecting families with school-age children to spend an average of $634.78, down from $688.62 last year.

More than papers, pencils and new shoes

Discount stores and department stores will reap the majority of back-to-school spending, but shoppers will be looking online and at specialty stores, too. The NRF survey found that college-age children will also shop at clothing stores (30.8%), home furnishing/home decor stores (17.2%) and online (37.1%). Shoppers are also expected to visit electronics stores (20.4%), drug stores (18.5%) and thrift/resale stores (13.7%) for their supplies.

Creativity counts

As competition heats up, retail stores are getting creative and many will utilize social media to engage with their customers this year. Macy’s is holding a Facebook contest with gift cards going to the winners. Target is hoping to attract college age shoppers with a YouTube based “reality” show. Their YouTube personalities will spend four days in dorm rooms outfitted with Target merchandise. Office Depot is hoping to attract more business by teaming up with the band One Direction to promote an anti-bullying campaign through videos, digital ads and web content. Customers can win contests and supplies branded with the anti-bullying message.

Special events are also part of the online/in-store experience this year: Dozens of retailers will offer special deals on August 10 for “Back to School Saturday” sponsored by Teen Vogue. Visitors to the website: can find deals, events and a free, downloadable app.

Don’t miss the bus

How can small to mid-size retailers compete? Set your store up for success by engaging customers through events, social marketing and discounts. Here are some easy-to-implement ideas:

  • Utilize social media to get the word out about special events and discounts at your business. Post photos on your Facebook page and tweet new offers.
  • Design a contest around back-to-school shopping and offer a gift card to the winner. 
  • Post or email a “daily deal” to customers can get them excited, and talking, about your store.
  • Host a “bring a buddy” event, rewarding your customers when they bring a friend to shop.
  • Have a special open house with refreshments, discounts and a raffle.
  • Offer customers a small gift for back-to-school shopping. 

With summer almost over, don't miss the opportunity to send students back to class with merchandise from your store. Let us know what your business is doing to capture some back-to-school attention.


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Topics: Retail

Written by Kris Coughtry