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Back to School: Tips, Trends, and Predictions

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Walmart has prioritized convenience this year with recommended checklists so parents will be covered for all categories of school supplies. The online classroom hub has made it easy for educators to create a supply list that is easily shareable to the class — parents can simply search their school name or zip code. Walmart is also promoting 100 items under a dollar and free shipping for purchases over $35.

Target also wants to be a destination for supplies and furnishings. By using the Target Circle rewards program, students can get a 20% discount on a one-time purchase (up from 15% last year) until Sept. 3. Teachers with valid credentials will receive 15% off on supplies until Sept. 10. 

In regards to tech, Apple is pushing hard for students to be taking class notes on an iPad with an iPencil or on a Macbook by offering gift cards eligible for any future purchases instead of last year’s free Airpod offer. Now, purchasers of Mac computers are awarded gift cards of $150 and $100 for iPads, plus the regular educational discount. Applecare is also available for 20% off. 

Back-to-School Spending By the Numbers 

The NRF report stated that the pandemic has increased purchasing, as families spent roughly $168 less per K-12 student and $223 less per college student before 2019. Electronics is the leader in back-to-school sales for both categories, as consumers are expected to spend $18 billion for college and $13 billion for K-12. Dorm furnishings and clothing were expected to reach 10 billion in sales each for college students, while K-12 students will be purchasing clothes ($11 billion) and new shoes ($7 billion).

Online shopping is the method that most shoppers are prioritizing for both college and K-12, as half of those gearing for college will make purchases online (43% for K-12.) Yet projections look promising for in-person shoppers as 45% of K-12 students and 36% of college students will purchase something from a retail store, says NRF. Discount stores account third for both markets (40% of K-12 shoppers, 29% for college). 

Both markets will make purchases from clothing stores, electronic stores, and office supply stores while college students will also purchase from the college bookstore, home decor stores, and drug stores. 

4 Key Takeaways

1. Consumers are concerned about inventory — that items will not be available in late August. Use your technology to communicate between digital and in-person sales to make your customers confident your products are available. 

2. Consumers have merchandise already in their inbox but some delay purchasing anticipating competitor deals. Make your discounts known to your customers with regular communication.

3. Customers are increasingly engaging with social media to make purchasing decisions. Nearly half will visit social media accounts for a sense of the brand’s style and attitude. A creative online presence will help drive direct purchases from social media. 

4. In the end, consumers want convenience and affordability. Provide easy suggestions or checklists, with impressive promotions and loyalty point opportunities along with free shipping. 



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