Over the past two years, teachers have had to overcome incredible challenges to navigate teaching during the pandemic. As the landscape for learning continues to evolve, new opportunities to meet the needs of teachers and students abound for office supplies industry players.

Developing a Seamless Shopping & Purchasing Experience for the Teacher at Retail

Retailers have introduced several new solutions aimed at increasing the level of convenience for the back-to-school shopper and teacher. Examples include retailers introducing a ‘teachers’ section’ in-store and online aimed at providing teachers with the materials they need and building digital capabilities that link the items on a teacher’s school list to product assortment in-store and online.

According to NPD’s Future of Office Supplies data as of Q1 2022, 53% of teachers indicated using a retailer-based app or tool that incorporates a school list solution to aid in determining which supplies students should purchase. Supplies are also secured through donations, with 66% of teachers having received donated school supplies for the classroom and 26% participating in the Clear the List program.

Aside from their classroom needs, many teachers report having to purchase supplies for use at home (56%) and for their own children (68%). During the summer months, the average teacher will make 42 general merchandise purchase trips with office supplies included in the basket 10% of the time.* This presents an opportunity for both retailers and manufacturers. When retail programs are developed for teachers both their professional needs for the classroom and personal needs for the home should be considered. By doing so, retailers can cater to the needs of this group across their life journey and potentially yield greater loyalty, resulting in increased lifetime value to the retailer or brand.

Know When Teachers are Shopping & the Sources of Funding

While the back-to-school season is key, teachers are shopping for supplies year-round with 31% purchasing supplies during the first quarter of the year. The constant need for supplies results in many teachers paying for tools themselves. According to Future of Office Supplies data, about 41% of teachers purchase supplies for their students to use in class, with Adopt-a-Classroom reporting teachers spend an average of $500 out-of-pocket each year. In addition to out-of-pocket spending, 52% of teachers reported using school-provided funding to help prepare lesson plans. In building programs for teachers at retail it’s important to understand their needs year-round to help inform and refine assortment, merchandising, and pricing that encourages repeat business.

Seek Alignment with Teachers’ Evolving Preferences

The accelerated investment in and usage of technology over the last two years will have a long-lasting impact on education. Teachers have had to adapt quickly to the acceleration with about 74% indicating that they increased the amount of digital interaction with students because of COVID-19. While this shift has impacted traditional school supply purchasing, most teachers are buying the same amount (50%) or more supplies (16%). As technology is further incorporated into classroom learning there is an added environmental benefit that emerges. To that end, 86% of teachers indicated that it is somewhat to very important that the office/school supplies brands they purchase are environmentally friendly/socially responsible, and 91% are willing to spend more on a product that can be recycled, uses recycled products, or donates a portion of sales to conservation. Incorporating brand values into marketing efforts can help align with these personal values.

The 2022 back-to-school season will provide key insight into future post-pandemic traditional supply needs, as well as the influence teachers have on what school supplies families purchase. In anticipation of a less disrupted back-to-classroom this fall, focusing on and supporting teachers as they prepare for a more normal year should be a critical initiative for office supplies industry players over the summer.

To hear more about the back-to-school season and what’s trending in the office supplies industry register for our webinar:

*The NPD Group/Checkout Analytics Teachers General Merchandise Purchase Dynamics/3ME Sept. 2021