Retailers Are Ramping Up for Back-to-School Season

John Krautzel
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Retailers are ramping up their back-to-school campaigns in earnest, enticing parents to spend their hard-earned dollars on school supplies. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), shopping for school supplies ranks second in total consumer spending, trumped only by the winter holidays. The comprehensive survey indicates parents, teens, and college-bound young adults have a growing affinity for shopping at local specialty retailers and online when shopping for school.

For some retailers, filling the cash register coffers in the dog days of summer is a way to erase the losses of a lackluster winter holiday season. Other retailers see a steady stream of customers buying school supplies as a way to right the ship when something else has gone wrong in their annual business plan. Retail giant Target launched a generous back-to-school campaign to regain consumer confidence after a massive credit card data breach, one of the largest in history, paralyzed the company during the prior winter holiday season.

Across the retail industry, those companies that do their homework and study the trends have the greatest chance at getting a passing grade when it comes to ensuring they have a profitable back-to-school season while growing their bottom line with the sale of school supplies.

Traditional brick-and-mortar merchants are stocking their shelves with handheld electronics to meet the ever-growing demand for these products as more schools and universities require access to them. The NRF shows a four-fold increase in tablet ownership among college-aged consumers in less than five years. Likewise, three out of four of these consumers own a cell phone, and they intend to use it for shopping. Astute business owners recognize the power of the handheld gadget and build intuitive, responsive shopping platforms that make it pleasurable and easy for people who are buying for school.

As online shopping continues to gain momentum with parents seeking school supplies, retailers are under growing pressure to take orders, pack and ship around the clock. Sophisticated logistics make it possible for most school supplies to be shipped anywhere in the continental United States overnight, if desired.

Whether your business is a physical store, online, big-box retail or small and independently owned, knowing how to capture those back-to-school dollars puts you at the head of the class. Regardless of your business model, there are only so many dollars to be spent each season, so being prepared to respond to your customers' needs determines whether or not you will pass the test.

Consumer preferences, academic curricula, school budgets, economic conditions, social media and finicky purchasing habits all influence how people shop for school supplies. By studying the trends and keeping your finger on the pulse of your consumers' behavior, you will be ramped up and ready for the back-to-school season when people start buying school supplies.

"05062014 ED Goes Back to School 15" by US Department of Education licensed by CC BY 2.0


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