Monday, June 26, 2017

Back to School Begins in June

So soon? Staples has had backpacks and other school supplies prominently displayed in the front of its stores for several weeks--even before school was over!

Other retailers are already promoting back-to-school items, as shown here on Zappos and Dick's today. Visit any website catering to teens and parents (Old Navy, Walmart) and you'll see some school-related items featured.

Rushing the season? Partly...this is a definite trend for all retailers as they try to get a jump on the competition. It's also a function of changing consumer behavior, with parents being price-conscious and interested in bargains, even two months early.

Target has been mounting special college programs for years, and has begun opening smaller stores very close to college campuses, making it convenient for students and parents to browse and buy. "Growth on college campuses and in urban markets is a priority for Target," says a Target VP.

Go into any housewares/home goods store (Bed Bath & Beyond for instance) and dorm room products are the big focus, with helpful checklists and ideas for parents and students. IKEA has its dorm website ready, with body copy that begins: "Ready or not, fall's on its way, and with it, a new school year."

Amazon Prime Day in July may very well be a key turning point in buying for back to school. Not surprisingly, Walmart is battling Amazon on this front for a major piece of the pie. States also recognize the trend toward earlier purchasing and are moving their tax-free weeks earlier to accommodate consumer buying preferences.

Students may roll their eyes when they go into a store and see school-related products. But retailers want to get on the parents' radar and make an impression as the store or website to visit for back-to-school items. So while some people are thinking pool accessories and pickle ball, others are thinking pencils and packs. For savvy marketers, the plan is to present a solid value proposition, polish brand image, and encourage buyers to go ahead and buy--early.

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