Are You Prepared for the Back-to-School (and Work) Shopping Rush?

August 17, 2021
shipstation uk back to school spotlight

The summer holidays are in full swing and as another tumultuous year for school children comes to end sellers and retailers across the ecommerce sector are quickly turning their heads towards the bonanza that is back-to-school shopping season.

Last year was a damp squib as retailers faced a drop in sales due to the uncertainty about schools reopening for the first time since lockdown. In 2021, however, prospects are brighter. According to Deloitte’s back-to-school survey in the US:

  • 55% of respondents are more confident about the economy’s prospects (versus 17% in 2020)Household financial situations are steady, with 78% in similar or better shape than last year
  • 40% of parents expect to spend more on back-to-school items year-on-year (versus 22% in 2020), with the majority saying their children need more items this year
  • Overall, spend is up 16% to $32.5B, with parents spending an average of $612 per child

With a move away from home-based learning and back into the classroom, there will be a renewed dash for uniforms, shoes, and school supplies in the short summer break window. Technology spending is also up 37% for this year too.

Online sales prevail 

This is an opportunity for ecommerce retailers to shine. With many customers shopping less in-store, online sales will benefit, so the onus is on stock availability. Managing inventory over the next few weeks will be vital if retailers are to ensure customers are not frustrated at checkout.

While consumers shop for school throughout the summer holidays, there is the inevitable scramble in the last two weeks of August for last-minute items, and savvy retailers can take advantage of this by keeping some inventory in reserve. 

Offering a range of products, from fashionable or branded stationery and school accessories to lower-cost items gives consumers choice, allowing them to spend more on key buys such as coats and sturdy bags, while they can save on some less essential items elsewhere.

Now is the time for focused marketing on the back-to-school mini-peak. Highlight stock availability, the quality and robustness of products, and ease of returns if goods are not suitable.

Discounts and delivery

Even the most deep-pocketed parents will respond to a great discount or deal, so it’s a good idea to make tempting bundles available, such as pairing calculators and rulers, or trainers and PE kits. Ensure discounts are accessible through mobile coupons, in email newsletters, and on social media, and promote loyalty schemes now to draw in new customers.  

Also offer multiple delivery options at checkout, allowing for the change in routines as customers negotiate their shopping around their well-earned holidays and most importantly, make the shopping journey seamless. A good experience now will bring shoppers back as we approach Black Friday and Peak.  

Back to work 

Of course, it’s not just students who are preparing to go back. September is a time synonymous with change and many working adults will also be planning to go back to the office, if not full time, then at least on some days during the week. After eighteen months of casual clothes and Zoom calls, retailers can anticipate demand for smart business attire, shirts, ties, suits, and more.

Even for those still working from home, this time of year presents opportunities to refresh tired desktops, invest in new furniture and buy storage options as they declutter following the summer holiday hiatus. 

Whether it’s back to school or back to work, now is the time for online retailers to present new ideas to shoppers. Couple them with great deals, a full stock inventory, and a memorable customer experience, and they will be returning right through to Peak. 

For other ways to keep your customers happy, read our blog about loyalty schemes here.

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