Back-to-school (BTS) season is big business for retailers. In fact, it trails only the holidays as the second-biggest shopping event of the year.
While we often think of back-to-school happening in August or September — it's starting earlier and earlier every year. If your brand is looking to make the most of BTS season, there's no better time than now to start planning and executing!
Read on for a roundup of five things to know to position your brand for optimal retail success during 2022's BTS shopping season.
1. A lot remains in flux
While there appears to be a light at the end of the very long pandemic tunnel, the reality is that a lot remains up in the air. While prior to 2020, we could look to past years for guidance, we've been in uncharted territory for the past two years.
However, there are some trends worth noting. According to Deloitte data, for starters, early returns to classrooms at the start of 2021 combined with cautiously optimistic outlooks about the economy led to increased spending levels last fall.
The data shows that consumers were eager to get back into stores: A whopping 76% planned to shop in-store, according to Chain Store Age (CSA). Additionally, 33% planned to use BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store), and 22% planned to use curbside pickup.
Given that the goal is for schools to stay open in 2022, the forecast also looks bright for in-store BTS spending.
2. Supply chain breakdowns will impact consumer behaviors
However, a return to classrooms doesn't necessarily mean a return to normal. The lingering effects of COVID will continue to impact the industry and consumer behavior.
Take the breakdown of the supply chain, for example. By now, we're all familiar with being unable to get our hands on things we used to take for granted. These challenges will continue to play out — including as it pertains to BTS shopping.
This issue may change how consumers approach their purchases. According to AdAge data about BTS from August of 2021, 71% of shoppers in the U.S. said they'd be willing to wait more than two weeks to purchase if it meant accessing a deal, sale, or promotion. Due to changing attitudes towards scarcity, this may no longer be the case.
According to Mark Stanton, general manager of supply chain solutions for logistics technology company Powerfleet, scarcity of items will likely lead to two outcomes:
- People will buy things they want and need at the moment they see them
- People may have to be more patient about waiting for items that aren't available.
One takeaway for brands? Catching shoppers' attention with the right store display or packaging at the right time may be the key to capturing their business. Retailers are working on their BTS plans now, so getting your display bids in soon is key to winning retail space and developing the right display for your brand.
Your display and product packaging are opportunities to communicate key messaging about how your brand values align with theirs. For example, as more consumers embrace sustainability, showcasing eco-friendly product packaging can further entice a purchase and build brand loyalty.
Learn more about incorporating sustainability into your packaging.
3. And BTS shopping lists may look different, too
The pandemic didn't just change how people shop — it also changed what they're shopping for.
Categories seeing positive revenue growth in August of 2021 included early learning classroom supplies and lunch boxes, while those showing negative revenue growth included classroom decorations, educational charts and posters, backpacks, pencils, notebooks, laptops, and hand sanitizer. Unsurprisingly, masks were also "in" for BTS 2021.
However, the question remains whether these trends will hold strong or shift in 2022.
4. Expect an early start
There's a lot of uncertainty about BTS season, but one thing is a good bet: Consumers WILL start early! In prior years, shoppers have started hitting the stores as early as the beginning of July and will continue to stock up through Labor Day weekend to get all the best deals.
However, their plans may be accelerated by supply chain complications. Stanton's advice to consumers is to shop and buy early, knowing that items may not be readily available later.
Remember that the busiest BTS shopping weeks vary regionally due to different school year calendars. According to Sensormatic Solutions Shopper Insights data, as reported by CSA, shoppers in the Southern and Western regions start BTS shopping the earliest, followed by the Midwest and Northeast.
5. Now is the time to start planning
Brands looking to make the most of BTS season need to start early. Retailers are planning their BTS promotions and strategy now, so engage with retailers soon if you’re hoping to have in-store displays for your BTS products this year.
First time with a retail display program? Here’s what you need to know.
There's no better time than now to secure your BTS program with retailers — and to consider how the right packaging can enhance your marketing strategies, support a satisfying customer journey, and boost your sales.