How to Grab Your Share of the Back-to-School Shopping Dollar -
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How to Grab Your Share of the Back-to-School Shopping Dollar

Schoolkids all over America are sleeping late, heading to the beach and enjoying their summer. Meanwhile, their parents are already thinking about back-to-school shopping—and smart retailers are, too. July kicks off the back-to-school shopping season, which is the second-biggest shopping season of the year. How can you get your share of that market?

Last year, the National Retail Federation reports, families with children in grades K-12 spent nearly $690 each on back to school products. That figure isn’t likely to change much this year, as parents who’ve gotten used to cutting back hang on to their recession-honed shopping habits.

Three-fourths of U.S. families with children of school age say the state of the U.S. economy will impact their back-to-school spending plans, according to a new survey by BIGinsight. That is a slight drop from the 80 percent who said the same at this time last year, but still quite high.

How are parents planning to keep costs down?

  • Re-use, recycle: One-fourth (25.7 percent) of families say they’ll ask kids to re-use items from last year, a slight increase from 23.5 percent last year.
  • Do their homework online: About one in four (18.4% vs. 16.8% last year) will go online to research products, compare prices and look for deals.
  • Buy generic: About one-third (36.9 percent) of parents will purchase generic products to save money.
  • Scout out discounts: A similar number (36.7 percent) will look for coupons before making a purchase.
  • Cut back on the “extras”: Clothes, backpacks and school supplies aren’t the only areas where parents are scrimping. About one in 10 (12.7 percent) say they will cut back on their children’s extracurricular activities to save money this school year.

What do these figures mean to you?

If your business provides extracurricular activities, make sure your marketing focuses on the lifetime value of the activity, such as helping children lose weight or stay fit, improving their focus or study skills, helping them make friends, or preparing them for college. Consider offering discounts such as lowering fees for multiple children or using short-term deals (“Sign up now, get the first two weeks free”) or gifts (“Free uniform with enrollment”) to entice parents.

  • Offer deals. Discounts and specials still matter, so figure out how you can cut prices while still making money.
  • Be visible online. Use social media, internet marketing and online advertising to go where parents are shopping and price-comparing. Make it shareable—moms will share deals they find online, so make it simple for them to share links from your email newsletter, social media pages or website.
  • Keep it simple. Parents like savings, but they also like simplicity because they’re always busy and stressed. If you can make it easy for them—say, by selling packets of “everything you need for Kindergarten” (work with local schools to find out what that is), they’ll be more likely to buy.
  • Reach out to past customers. Use technology to track customers’ past purchases and send reminders. For instance, if someone bought size 12 girls’ school uniforms last August, send them a reminder in late July and notify them about your specials on girls’ uniforms in size 14 or 16.

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Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at
Karen Axelton

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