August 9, 2012

Back To School Madness

It’s that time of the year again, when stores are stocked full of multi-colored backpacks and print frenzy notebooks. However, going back to school isn’t what it used to be. According to the National Retail Federation, next to Christmas and Black Friday, back-to-school (BTS) is the next largest spending event of the year and it doesn't just end with school supplies and fall clothes anymore! From flower delivery to skateboards, tanning, cars, and speakers, a multitude of industries are cashing in on the back to school cash flow.

Not to mention, retailers are moving up the back to school madness earlier and earlier every summer. According to a survey by PriceGrabber, about 20% of shoppers said they started buying BTS as early as June, with school barely out! For most consumers, this strategy is the best way to spread out purchases, budget their spending, and anticipate heavier discounts. Despite countless promotions, deals, giveaways, and free shipping the National Retail Federation projects that consumers with children aged kindergarten through 12th grade will spend on average about $688 on BTS merchandise this season.

photo via Teen Vogue

Teen Vogue has even declared this Saturday, August 11th as “Back to School Saturday” (BTSS) to promote consumers to get out and shop for back to school fashion and beauty goodies! On Saturday, students across the country can score discounts and free stuff from participating stores like Aeropostale, American Apparel, Gap, H&M, True Religion (and that’s just the gist of it) as well as a full list of beauty brands like Clean & Clear, Clinique, and Neutrogena via The Teen Vogue Insider App for the iPhone. With this app, shoppers not only earn points toward exclusive prizes by checking in, but can map out local participating retailers in their area.

photo via Sears

Sears is jumping on the BTSS bandwagon with their Team Up To Stop Bullying initiative in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. On August 11th, via a 15% off savings pass, up to $70,000 worth of purchases on apparel, accessories, intimates, footwear, fine jewelry, and watches will be donated to charities affiliated with the project.

photo via Staples

Overall, retailers like Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy are introducing new strategies to gear up for back-to-school shopping. From heavily discounted laptops and printers to fun campaigns featuring celebrities to supporting various charitable initiatives, these companies are pushing their promotional strengths to the max. At the head of the pack is Staples who's Back to School Savings Pass will return which costs $10 and offers shoppers 15% off merchandise until September. Not to mention, in a recent weekly flyer, some of their savings included glue for a penny and copy paper for a quarter!

video via youtube

Recent surveys show consumers are expected to shop more at both department and specialty stores this year compared to 2011. In response, Macy's, who continues to target Millenials, will shift their marketing efforts towards microsites and text-to-enter sweepstakes. And what about J.C. Penney you ask? With major changes happening at the department chain that includes slashed prices, boutique-like mini-shops, and ipad checkout systems on the sales floor, there is major pressure for the retailer to boost sales this month. J.C. Penney has initiated free haircuts for children in kindergarten to sixth grade. In addition, the department chain is also offering free shipping promotions which has become a must-have incentive for parents this season when it comes to shopping online.

photo via eBay

With online shopping at a record high since 2007, consumers will make use of m-commerce more than ever to compare prices, search for coupons, and respond to price matching and in-store promotions. Companies like eBay, are preparing for the BTS season by stepping up their social media efforts via Pinterest contests which include a $5,000 eBay dorm room makeover as well a $100 eBay gift card by creating pin boards of dorm room essentials and backpacks via eBay's back to school pinboards. eBay is also hosting a Facebook backpack drive where it will donate up to 5,000 backpacks full of school supplies to students.

photo via Mr.Youth

In general, social media has revolutionized the entire back-to-school process, specifically for college bound students. From discussing acceptances to room assignments, class schedules, student life, and general Q&A to making friends, research shows that this group is creating online communities via social networking sites starting in March all the way through October. Instead of meeting fellow peers at orientation, today's college bound Freshman can connect the moment their acceptance letters arrive in the mail. With 40% of students logging on to Facebook more than 10 times per day and 58% stating they use Twitter all the time, brands and retailers are going to have to successfully and innovatively utilize this new outlet in order to reach out to these students during their transition into college.

Whatever the strategy is, back to school fever is here! It seems most retailers are not only slashing prices, upping discounts, and experimenting with innovative marketing approaches, but bringing a philanthropic spirit to the season as well! Let the BTS madness take way and enjoy the rest of the summer!

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