Back to School: It’s the most wonderful time for parents… but how about retailers?

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Filed Under: Business Trends

We all remember the iconic Staples commercial from the 90s of the Dad dancing down the school supply aisle with two sad children shuffling their feet behind him. The question this year is…will retailers be dancing down the aisle?

Camp is in full swing and summer vacations are still being planned, but retailers are gearing up for the second most important selling period of the year.


According to the National Retail Federation’s Back to School survey, 49% of parents with school age children will begin shopping for supplies three weeks to one month before school start, with 22% waiting until 1-2 weeks before.

Back to school brought in $83.8 billion in 2012,” according to NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis.  What will it bring in 2013? Time will tell, but one thing is clear – the average shopper is planning on spending 8% less than they did last year. When asked how the state of the U.S. economy will impact their back-to-school plans, shoppers said:

  • 49% will be shopping for sales more often this year
  • 37% will do more comparative shopping online (up from 32% last year)
  • 34% will do more comparative shopping with ad circulars and newspapers
  • 24% will be making do with last year’s school items

With shoppers being more conservative this year, here are some trends the NRF believes retailers should expect:

According to NRF’s survey, electronics and other computer related equipment will be the biggest budget spend with both grade school and college bound shoppers. Coming in number two, among the grade school crowd is clothing while furnishings pulls in the second slot for the older crowd.


Are you seeing similar or different trends?


Active Staff
Active International helps the world’s leading brands use corporate assets to fund media, marketing initiatives and path to purchase programs that increase consumer engagement and loyalty. As the global leader in corporate trade, Active has provided its clients with $1.5 billion in economic benefit since 1984. The company is based in New York and has offices in 14 countries.

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