The end of summer is approaching and kids are heading back to school. Parents and kids will be flooding retailers looking to pick up school supplies. In fact, the National Retail Federation anticipates that the average family will spend $630 per child on back-to-school supplies this year alone, with total spending totaling about $68 billion in 2015—that’s a lot of business to be made from students and parents alike. Let’s look at some of the current trends in back-to-school spending so you can think about adjusting your day-to-day operations in order to best prepare for this influx of family shopping.
- Most people shop for back-to-school supplies in brick-and-mortar stores. Don’t be fooled by dire predictions that most shoppers are turning to online deals and promotions. A survey conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers showed that 83% of back-to-school purchases will be made in physical stores, including 7% of sales that will be made online but picked up in-store. This means you want to maximize your store for high traffic patterns and easy access to products, sales employees, registers and entrances/exits. A video surveillance system with integrated video analytics can help you design a traffic flow that is efficient.
- Mobile technology is still a factor. 80% of the respondents in the survey indicated that they planned to use a mobile device applications to enhance their shopping experience. These applications can include online price comparisons, digital coupons, checking ratings and reviews, analyzing product reviews, and comparing notes with friends or family.
This trend can help you decide as a retailer what your sales strategy will be in relation to mobile technology. Do you want to discount items in order to compete with big-box retailers? Can your improved customer service help make the difference to customers when deciding where to buy back-to-school supplies for their children? Do you want to blanket your retail operation with robust and free Wi-Fi to encourage potential customers to take advantage of your investments in digital marketing and sales enhancements? There are a lot of choices to make so investing your time in this aspect of your back-to-school sales strategy is important.
- People buy more supplies once they are in your retail store. The survey demonstrated that 79% of people who said they plan to order online for in-store pickup indicated that they are likely to buy additional items once they are in the store. This means maximizing your product displays is critical and a video analytics package can help you determine where the most visible places are in your store.
- Knowing what people buy makes a difference to your bottom line. You would be surprised at the diversity of things that people buy when shopping during the back-to-school rush. In addition to school supplies like pencils and notebooks, parents also buy clothing and shoes, electronics, computers and smartphones, backpacks, and glasses. Take the opportunity to encourage upselling by your retail employees, market hot products in your most visible locations, co-brand products by co-locating appropriate pairings, and keep your inventory levels where they should be for the back-to-school rush.
- Don’t forget the big kids. Whenever someone mentions back-to-school retail sales, most people inevitably think of small children buying crayons, construction paper, rulers and other accoutrements suited to kindergarten or elementary school. But there is actually much more volume involved in sales of products geared to high school and college students. Remember that high school kids are trying to be cool, so many of them will be geared towards the higher-end clothing, electronics, gadgets and accessories.
Meanwhile, college students need to be outfitted to live an adult life. Parents will spend an average of $126 per student on dorm or apartment furnishings and accessories. Meanwhile, 31% of college students will live in college housing such as dormitories this year, which is a record statistic. That’s a lot of lava lamps and bean bags, so optimizing your retail operation to take advantage of these trends is definitely worth your time and effort.