Back-to-school shopping is on the horizon for many families across the world. As one of the biggest events in the retail calendar, merchants will need to do their utmost to bear the fruits of this lucrative period. To have the best shot at acing back-to-school sales, we’ll break down the essential statistics, and highlight the most sought-after items and how best to sell them.
Back-To-School Spending: The Statistics You Need To Know
How much will consumers spend?
The numbers are in for back-to-school spending in 2023. However, the picture isn’t so clear, with top researchers butting heads when it comes to total spending.
According to NRF, back-to-school sales are expected to reach new highs. In the US alone, K-12 families will spend a total of $41.5 billion, and college purchases will soar to $94 billion. This is a huge jump compared to 2022, with sales increasing by 12% and 25%, respectively. However, these findings starkly contrast with what Deloitte's report unearthed. The researchers found spending will fall by 10%, causing the back-to-school market to shrink to just $31.2 billion. The main reasons for the downturn in spending are inflation and a lowered disposable income.
Despite these conflicting findings, one thing agreed is that consumers will place huge importance on stretching their dollars. Back-to-school shoppers will be on the hunt for the best deals. This desire to save will affect when they begin shopping and where they shop
When will consumers start back-to-school shopping?
Shopping for back-to-school has already been kicked into gear. The majority of back-to-school shoppers began making purchases as early as July.
The driver of this trend towards shopping early is purely economical. Families can budget more effectively and take advantage of summer sales by making some purchases sooner rather than later. That being said, all hope isn’t lost for retailers yet to set up their stores for back-to-school. 85% of families still have at least half of their shopping to do.
Where will consumers go for back-to-school purchases?
Online stores will be a key resource for back-to-school shoppers, with both NRF and Deloitte finding it to be the choice for around 55%. Online retailers will be particularly favored for electronic goods, while physical stores will be the go-to for clothing and school supplies. Mass merchants and off-price retailers will also be popular as families try to save a few bucks. Moreover, omnichannel shopping will be a crucial feature of BTS consumers.
The role of social media in back-to-school shopping (Source: Deloitte)
Social media is going to be a hotspot for both Gen X and Millennial parents, as well as their tech-savvy children. Parents flock to social media to find the best deals, while students will use it as inspiration.
The Most Sought-After Products For Back-To-School Shoppers In 2023
So, what exactly will back-to-school shoppers be on the lookout for? All signs point to big sellers of electronics, clothing, shoes, and apartment furnishings.
Top product categories for back-to-school (left) and back-to-college (right) shoppers (Source: NRF)
Electronic products will garner the most spending from families and students this year. Back-to-school shoppers will be on the prowl for laptops, tablets, phones, and calculators.
When it comes to laptops and tablets, sturdy, portable, and robust devices with a long battery life will be essential. Apple MacBooks, iPad Air, Acer Chromebooks, and Dell XPS 13 are great products to stock up on. While consumers are willing to spend more on these electronic devices, it’s important to include a selection of budget options for those with tighter wallets.
Dorm & Apartment furnishings
Both new and returning college students will be looking to give their new homes a personal and homely touch. This will go beyond just posters and banners. Instead, college students will go all out, opting to spend money on decorative items that will last throughout most of their college career.
For students, these furnishings are more than just functional. Instead, they are the vehicle driving the expression of their personal styles. Fun and unique wall decor, lighting, bedding, rugs, kitchen accessories, and bathroom accessories are the items that’ll transform their living spaces into a bespoke expression of themselves.
Shoes & Clothing
Shoes and clothing will form a major part of back-to-school shopping. These are pretty much non-negotiable items, but parents are hoping to capitalize on deals and stretch their dollars when shopping for back-to-school clothes and shoes.
Retailers should ensure that they’ve stocked up on school clothes for the fall and winter seasons in addition to comfortable school shoes. 70% of millennial parents buy items related to popular TV and cartoon characters, so these types of clothing will be a big hit. Y2K fashion and Barbiecore, in particular, will also be hot trends. Since the release of the Barbie movie trailer, searches for Barbie-influenced clothing like pink items and fluffy mules spiked by 78% and 115%, respectively.
School supplies & stationery
A big trend for stationery and school supplies will be bundled kits. Rather than buying individual packs of crayons, rulers, notebooks, and so on, parents will choose pre-configured supplies kits. In 2022, 46% of BTS shoppers bought pre-made supply kits as they offered a cost-effective and convenient way to prepare their kids for school. With tighter wallets being the norm this year, we can expect a surge in demand for school supplies kits.
Tips On How To Craft Back-To-School Shopping Campaigns
Now you know what items back-to-school shoppers will be on the hunt for, and the next phase is figuring out how to sell them best. As you prepare your store for back-to-school sales, consider implementing some of these winning strategies to entice customers.
Product bundles will be especially important for back-to-school sales as they provide unrivaled convenience. They can also be a great money-saving opportunity.
Create bundles for school supplies that feature all the essentials a student will need, such as pencils, pens, crayons, rulers, erasers, etc. Home furnishings can also be bundled as bedding sets, sets of storage bins, dining ware, and bathroom essentials.
Carefully plan out your electronics bundles to ensure the additional items add value to the main product. For instance, tablet bundles could include a Bluetooth keyboard and protective case for ease and safety. A stylus pen could also be an excellent addition for design students.
The most effective bundles are going to be the ones that offer customers a saving. Be sure to slash the prices of these collections of products where possible and highlight the discount to reel in shoppers.
Back-to-school shopping guides
Shopping guides will be a real godsend for your customers. There’s a huge range of students that need to be catered for, all with differing needs from each of the product categories. This could make searching for the right products a difficult task for back-to-school shoppers. With back-to-school shopping guides, you’ll help parents and students find the items they need in no time.
Staples’ back-to-school guides
Create a handful of shopping guides based on school stages. Showcase the best items for kindergartners, primary school students, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students in individual guides. If you have a large store or sell across multiple categories, you may need to build a school stage-based guide for one.
Incentivize purchases with freebies
Competition will be fierce during the back-to-school sales period. Merchants will be bringing their A-game in the bid to attract customers. On top of that, the product pool is rather limited. So standing out from the crowd and showing your store brings customers additional value they won’t find anywhere else will be crucial.
Including free items with purchases is an excellent way to give your store what it needs to steal the show. These freebies don’t need to be anything too grand, but they should encapsulate the needs of students and their studies. Free stationary, cute accessories like a keychain, or even a gift card would work a treat.
Be Top Of Class For Back-To-School Sales
Back-to-school sales are an excellent chance to land a healthy dose of purchases. As families and students prepare for the upcoming school year, retailers will need to ensure that they’re fully stocked with essential items. However, just having the right products doesn’t guarantee success. Back-to-school shoppers are searching for the best deals and effective ways to stretch their money. Be sure to create product bundles, incentivize purchases with free items, and lead shoppers to the items they need with shopping guides and you’ll be top of the class.