Are you equipped to follow this seasonality?

Back to School – The Retail Shopping Trends 

As ecommerce and retail marketers, we are well conversed with seasonality. We time our deals around Black Friday, the holiday season and recently around the Amazon Prime Day.  Did you know that “Back to School” is a $26 billion business in the US and a nearly £2 billion business in the UK? This season lasts July and August in the US, and mostly August and early September in the UK.

Retail Spending 2013-2019

As with trends the number of users making online purchases during the ‘back to school’ period is rising. 

What is ‘Back to School’?

The NRF (Nation Retail Federation, US) has been conducting an annual back-to-school survey since 2003. The survey covers k-12 and college students across the US. This year’s survey was carried out from July 1-8, 2019, with the participation of 7,660 consumers. 

For K-12 students, the NRF says families will spend an average of $696.70, which is up from the $684.79 of 2018. But overall spending is going to go down because the survey says there are fewer families with kids in K-12. This is the reason that in the chart above we see the total is down to $26.2B, which is less $1.3B from the $27.5 billion of 2018.

For college students too, the trends are similar. The average spend is going to be higher, but overall spend lower. According to the survey in 2019, college students will spend an average of $976.78 compared to $942.17 in 2018.

What are products are being purchased?

According to statista, the following is the breakdown of products. Remember, unlike UK in the US most schools do not have uniforms. UK uniforms are also highly discounted.

As expected the following are the most sought after items

  • Clothing
  • Electronics
  • Footwear
  • School supplies

statista breakdown

How you should be prepared?

According to the NRF survey, almost 50% of parents admitted spending some of the ‘back to school’ budget on themselves. Moms are more stressed out over the purchases than Dads.

Most consumers look for discounts and are in no hurry to make purchases. They are looking for the best deals and make their purchases only when they come across a deal that they like. 

Small businesses can take advantage of this trend by announcing early and bundle discounts. To stay more visible. 

Online shopping is not the backbone of the purchase trend though over the years; the numbers are increasing.  As in the research graph prepared by e-marketers, most parents head to mass stores, but 45% do head to online retail stores where Amazon leads the game.

Some Highlights of Deloitte ‘Back to School’ Survey

  • The electronic gadgets category is expected to grow by $800M (+29% over 2018), while the computers and hardware category is expected to decline by $600M (-16% below last year). However, this is not true for UK based purchases because there you can lease electronic equipment.
  • Fundamentals matter in driving back-to-school purchases: Price is likely to be the predominant driver with sales/discounts (69%) and competitive prices (57%) as the top attributes driving purchase decisions.
  • While consumers expressed a desire for more convenient bundles for back-to-school shopping, only one-fifth of the shoppers plan to buy “pre-configured” kits.

Channel locations

Expectedly, Amazon leads the online purchase data

Online Retail

Back to school is a trend that all e-marketers can cash on. The idea is to be visible, make it easy, and offer attractive packages by anticipating needs. The stats in the article will help you analyze the needs and prepare better.


Sangeeta Kumar

Sangeeta has over 8 years experience in IT and 5 years experience as a digital marketer. She has hands-on experience in most digital channels including SEO, Social, PPC and Email marketing. Her job profile as an internet marketer required her to handle and train teams for deliverables. She has trained and pushed team members to learn digital marketing concepts which are novel yet beneficiary for businesses.

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