Insights

Ring the Bell! It’s Back to School for Retailers
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Ring the Bell! It’s Back to School for Retailers

It’s a subject that many kids don’t want to think about in the heart of the summer, but savvy retailers and marketers are already planning for the new school year—and they have good reason to.

So even though Labor Day is still more than a month off yet, Nielsen has started conducting weekly online surveys of “Back To School” sentiment among consumers. And the results of the first week (7/15-7/19) show that many consumers are ready to spend. But knowing what they’re buying and where they’re shopping will make or break a profitable back-to-school season.

Somewhat surprisingly, only 6 percent of respondents in this first week said they’ve already started their back to school shopping, 17 percent said they plan to wait a while and a whopping 70 percent did not shop yet.

However, the news appears brighter for the very near future. More than 60 percent said they plan to start shopping for school-related items in the next four weeks, and when they do, 21 percent plan to spend more than they did last year. Fifty-five percent said they plan to spend the same amount, while 21 percent said they were going to cut back on spending.

Back to School Means Back to Brick and Mortar

While there’s no doubt that the Internet is a formidable force for back-to-school shopping, we found that many consumers plan to buy the old-fashioned way.

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Consumers Buy Essentials – and Tablets!

While the times have changed the way we shop to some degree, consumers’ back-to-school needs are fairly consistent. Kids still need the basics when they head back to the classroom, but tablet computers are slowly becoming more of a “must have” than a “nice to have.” Twenty-seven percent of shoppers plan to buy a tablet, while only 9 percent plan to buy a laptop.

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Doing the Math – Well Before School Begins

While arithmetic is a primary school subject, it’s also something that consumers are brushing up on this summer as they plan on finding good deals. In fact, price and value are the top influencers behind their back-to-school shopping quests.

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According to James Russo, senior vice president of global consumer insights at Nielsen, the back-to-school season for retailers and marketers is all about knowing the customer. “Shopper strategies are fairly unique when it comes to back-to-school. Despite retailer strategies to drive back to school sales earlier and earlier, consumers are set on doing their back to school shopping across three main weeks in August. While there is buildup the week before and after, the office and school supplies category, which was over $7.2 billion in the U.S. in 2012, experienced the highest spike in the second, third and fourth weeks of August. Consumers don’t appear to be anxious to get a jump start on the often essential back to school spending. That knowledge is essential for manufacturers and retailers to win this season.”