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4 Calculations for Retail to Study This Back-to-School Season

Jul 24, 2017
Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Advisor ;

The back-to-school shopping season has gotten trickier to focus in on as a retailer. The shifting dynamics at play, from channel blurring to consumer needs, have created a very different back-to-school landscape that is testing the ability of today’s retailers to change their traditional approaches.

1) Early + Extended = Blurred Seasons

Nearly 40 percent of consumers started their 2016 back-to-school shopping in June or earlier. On the other end of the spectrum, more than a third didn’t finish until September or later. Many back-to-school shoppers are engaging in the early retail push, but there is a large segment that is still shopping well after retail has forgotten about back-to-school and moved into holiday mode.

Solution: Retailers have the opportunity to capture more back-to-school revenue by making it easy for shoppers to fulfill their late shopping needs and extending beyond the traditional thinking of when this season begins and ends.

2) Online Ease + Less Traffic = Less Impulse Potential

As retail has their eye on engaging consumers online, the in-store experience is getting lost. In some cases online initiatives are making it so easy for consumers to get everything they need with a click of a button, it is virtually eliminating the need to walk into a store. A byproduct of the decline in foot-traffic is the loss of potential impulse purchases that occur when consumers are physically in a store.

Solution: Retailers need to find ways to make their online strategies work with their in-store approaches, not against them.

3) Priorities - Passion = Lost Opportunity

Kids age into tech needs and those are the products that capture the attention. But, beyond the initial purchase, there is no real need for something new to follow it up. The same happens with most college dorm needs. As the passion fades after the first year of school milestones, the priorities become more about making filler purchases and less about the excitement that drove the early spend.

Solution: If manufacturers and retailers are able to find new and exciting ways to deliver exciting new product, they can reignite the returning student’s shopping passion.

4) Bigger Investments + Better Quality = Diminishing Returns

Whether the consumer is investing in a laptop or selecting a more durable backpack, they are purchasing products for back-to-school that they are less likely to replace in the near future – meaning that spend won’t be repeated.

Solution: Embrace the investment and give consumers more opportunity to invest in more of their back-to-school purchases – it requires newness and add-ons (like keyboards for tablets or an accessory to update last year’s backpack) to drive additional product purchases after the initial investment.


Source: The NPD Group / LAB Series: 2017 Back-to-School Report

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