Back to School Means Great Opportunities for Retailers

As 2020 was the year of virtual lessons for students and teachers due to the lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic, this year will be “back to school”—in person, in spirit, and with a vengeance. Class is in session. The lesson of this blog is to find out how the retail sector must be ready, willing, and able to attend to the shopping needs of parents and students. (Spoiler: This back-to-school shopping season will be unlike any other.)

Back-to-school spending on the upswing

In a report from BusinessWire—citing findings from MasterCard SpendingPulse—shopping for back-to-school items in 2021 is projected to grow 5.5 percent. This parallels the 12 percent year-over-year rise in total retail sales reported in May, which in turn is complemented by the combined reopening of businesses and people wanting to break out and spend—an example of “revenge spending” in action.

Shopping in-store

The BusinessWire report noted that brick-and-mortar stores could expect to see more foot traffic (of 25.3% YOY / 9.5% YO2Y), as people want a change of scenery from having had to stay close to home for over a year. And, despite the easing up of restrictions, a considerable number of consumers may opt for the “order online/pick up in store” trend that developed on account of the pandemic and will likely remain forever. And then, there is the choice of shopping exclusively online…

Amazon: A retailer’s oasis?

Amazon is expected to see a lot of traffic this Tuesday and Wednesday, June 21 and 22, which encompass “Prime Day” on the mega-store’s site. And shopping for school-related items is especially expected to reach new heights. Dan Berthiaume, writing for Chain Store Age, points out a study from RetailMeNot that notes that 92 percent of U.S. shoppers are expected to use Amazon Prime Day to purchase back-to-school items. And retailers who sell on Amazon are looking forward to the anticipated flood of shoppers, and they are increasing their investments to compensate for the losses sustained during last year’s pandemic.

How retailers should prepare

As stated, the back-to-school shopping season for 2021 will be unlike any other. Store owners, whether online or brick-and-mortar (or both) must therefore be ready to reach and meet students and parents alike. An article, courtesy of Waze, that appeared in Retail Dive, provided advice on how merchants who sell school-related supplies can be more visible and accessible to customers:

  • Provide products for learning in-person and virtual environments. Even though many schools plan on reopening, some will still maintain virtual teaching of their students. So, retailers should stock up and be ready to sell items like home computers for virtual schooling, right along with notebooks, pens, pencils, and everything else that’s associated with in-person learning.
  • Take note of in-demand items. Computers (or anything in the electronics category) and school supplies have already been mentioned as obvious products that shoppers will have on their checklist for the back-to-school season. Clothing and footwear (e.g., sneakers for gym class) are also projected to be in great demand.
  • Keep customer safety in mind. As stated earlier, despite the stemming of COVID-19, safety is still an understandable concern for many. Stores should maintain social distancing protocols as a precaution, complete with hand sanitizer at the ready. A safe customer is a happy customer.
  • Make messaging seen. While the percentages mentioned above state that customers are looking to spend, deals are always an extra attraction. This can be especially beneficial to brick-and-mortar retailers, as 42 percent of customers state they would be inclined to visit a store that had great deals and discounts.

The back-to-school season is an early example of a new era in buying and selling. The customer of today is more savvy and has more demands. While this may be intimidating to merchants, it is necessary to understand what their customer wants. For additional insight, download the EGC study, “Psychology Behind the Post-COVID Consumer.

Could your retail business use some help in making an impression on customers? Contact EGC to learn more. Also, check out our “Retail and Franchisee” page.

(Oh, as mentioned earlier: Amazon Prime Day is early next week. Find out about how EGC’s Amazon Marketing Services can boost your brand’s presence and attract more customers to your products or services by clicking here.)