Shoppers gear up for back-to-school season
The summer break may have just started for many school children, but parents are already planning their budgets for the upcoming school year, according to a new report from PriceGrabber.
The survey suggests 46 percent of online shoppers plan to spend more for school supplies this fall than they did during the same timeframe last year. Comparatively, only 13 percent of respondents said they would spend more money in 2012, indicating a modest increase in consumer confidence. Meanwhile, approximately 35 percent plan to spend just as much money in 2012 as they did last year.
Ongoing uncertainty takes its toll
As the second-largest sales period of the year, retail organizations in the US are projecting back-to-school and back-to-college sales of approximately $68 billion this year. But the continuous high unemployment rate and financial concern that created a disappointing summer start for retailers is likely to continue. Current projections are showing that most middle-income customers will be very selective in their back-to-school purchases.
"In today's challenging economic climate, it's important for families and students to save on back-to-school items," explained Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. "Many consumers are harnessing the power of the internet to find deals, compare prices, set price alerts, print coupons and take advantage of online promotional codes and free shipping to save extra cash."
Six tips for increasing back-to-school sales
This year’s back-to-school shopping season is likely to be very competitive, putting an increased demand on retailers to find new methods of generating customer traffic. Here are six tips for retailers to beat the competition and help encourage more consumers to come and buy back-to-school products.
Know Your Demographic: Find out what local schools in your area are requiring students to have, review market trends on popular new items and clothing, and review past back-to-school sales reports to get an accurate forecast and optimize your inventory. When asked by PriceGrabber what they plan to buy for their back-to-school needs, 79 percent of consumers said new clothing, 51 percent said a backpack, half said books, and 40 percent listed a consumer technology product, such as a laptop, smartphone, or graphing calculator.
Deliver the Basics: There are some basic school supplies – pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, backpacks, new jeans, etc. – that virtually every student needs. Offering these products at a discounted rate helps bring customers into your store. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other retailers have already started with ‘door-buster’ deals, such as packs of pens and crayons for a penny while supplies last. Retailers are also offer price-matching deals on basic supplies to help outshine the competition.
Get Creative with Your Promotions: The back-to-school shopping season is a great opportunity to try out new promotions or mix and match promotions to satisfy consumer demand and increase sales. For example, retailers in many states offer tax-free days during the back-to-school season. Alternatively, retailers can bundle popular items together, offer discounts on expensive items required by schools (e.g. graphing calculators), provide free shipping for online buyers, etc. Customer loyalty programs, a capability offered in many retail management software packages like Retail Pro, are an additional convenient way to promote or cross-promote back-to-school supplies to your existing customer base.
Highlight Your Promotions: Parents and college students this year are aggressively seeking promotions as a way to save money on back-to-school shopping. Take advantage of their proactive bargain hunting by using customer management tools in your retail management software, to create promotional campaigns specifically targeting these customer groups. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are also convenient avenues for building awareness of your promotions and reaching your target audience. Making your promotions more visible is one of the easiest ways to generate more traffic at your stores.
Integrate E-Commerce: PriceGrabber’s survey shows that nearly 80 percent of consumers plan to purchase their back-to-school supplies online, giving an enormous advantage to retailers with a website marketplace. By creating an online store, retailers can easily capture online back-to-school market share. Retailers with an existing website can use their online store to showcase new back-to-school promotions, offer special online discounts, email customers with targeted marketing campaigns, and more.
Give Back to the Community: Consider donating a small percentage of your profits to local schools as a way to increase community connections for your business. Or you can alternatively offer special discounts exclusively for teachers, as many educators are forced to purchase classroom supplies out-of-pocket due to school budget shortfalls. Retailers with strong ties to the local community can benefit from an elevated social standing, leading to increased customer loyalty and generating repeat patronage.
About Retail Pro
Retail Pro International, LLC is a global leader in Point of Sale, Store Operations, Merchandising, Planning, Business Intelligence, and Payment Processing software applications for the specialty retail industry. For over 20 years, Retail Pro has enabled specialty retailers to achieve their full potential through a unique, scalable, reliable, and highly customizable retail management solution.
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