The cry of “school’s out for summer!!” was still echoing in the halls and the kids had barely started to enjoy the lazy hazy days of summer - and the stores were boldly displaying backpacks, binders, and pencils? It wasn’t your imagination; many retailers and advertisers moved up the start of their back to school campaigns in 2011. Merchants such as Staples, Target, and Toys “R” Us began advertising back to school specials the first week in July, and some retailers began promoting school supplies as early as mid-June.
The National Retail Federation reports that back to school and back to college spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $68 billion this year. Considering that this represents the biggest consumer spending occasion outside of the holiday shopping season, it’s no surprise that merchants want to begin creating a buzz as early as possible. Economic uncertainty is reflected in the decrease in projected spending per family with children in grades K-12 averaging $603.63, down slightly from last year's average of $606.40. Back-to-college spending will average $808.71, down 3.2% from the previous year.
Here are some highlights from the report, courtesy of the NRF blog
• Combined back-to-school and back-to-college sales will reach $68 billion.
• The average family of K-12 students plans to spend about $600 on back-to-school items, nearly identical to last year.
• College students and their parents will spend about $800 on average this year, down about $30 from last year.
• 9 in 10 Americans surveyed said the economy will impact their back-to-school spending in some way.
• Half of consumers say they’ll shop for sales more often to compensate for the economy and over a third will be using coupons more often.
• Total back-to-college spending remains about twice as large as back to school.
• One-fourth of college students and parents will begin shopping at least two months before school starts – the highest since NRF began conducting the survey in 2003.
• The back-to-school and back-to-college season remain the second biggest season next to the holidays.
While the iconic image of little ones boarding a big yellow school bus is typically associated with back to school campaigns, students heading to college will spend twice as much on supplies when compared to younger scholars. These families were also more likely to begin their shopping much earlier in the summer.
According to a May 2011 study conducted by PriceGrabber, 69% of consumers say they will use online comparison shopping sites for back to school shopping, and 41% will look for coupons on retailer web sites. Smartphones and social networking sites will also be key players in driving traffic to consumer sites. A survey
by Deloitte LLP reveals that 61% of consumers will use their mobile devices to find the best prices for school products. 43% of consumers will use their smartphones to download discounts, coupons and sales information; 37% to locate a retail store; 29% to receive product information; and 25% to access a retailer’s web site.
In the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at how savvy merchants are capitalizing on mobile, social, and local trends, and how they’re refreshing tried and true engagement tactics such as coupons and discounts.