2022 Back-to-School Retail Trends
Despite a highly volatile economy, the 2022 back-to-school shopping season is expected to generate $110.8 billion in sales, which represents a 37% increase from $80.7 billion in 2019. The back-to-school season is the second largest shopping season of the year, surpassed only by holiday shopping in Q4. In 2021, retailers saw sales grow by 14.4% YoY during peak school shopping months as the economy recovered from the pandemic lockdowns. So far, back-to-school retail sales are growing, but YoY comps remain in the single digits. “The good news is that for most parents, back-to-school spending counts as a necessity, not discretionary spending.” In a recent National Retail Federation survey, “less than a quarter of respondents…said they are making do with last year’s school items, roughly in line with previous years.” Experts say factors such as inflationary prices and electronic shortages will contribute to an extended back-to-school shopping season this year.
According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, 84% of consumers “expect to see higher prices when back-to-school…shopping this year.” Consumer expectations will impact shopping behavior. 43% of consumers plan to “do more comparative shopping online,” which is up from 30% in 2021. 35% of families plan to seek out generic brand products when possible, up from 27% in 2021. Perhaps most significantly, 64% of “consumers are planning their back-to-school….shopping around retailer sale events.” That is up 3 percentage points from 2021 and 9 percentage points from 2019. Higher prices mean consumers will need to make compromises in other spending areas. The National Retail Federation found that 38% of consumers plan to “cut back in other areas” to pay for needed back-to-school shopping.
Emphasis on Electronics
Over the past three years, electronics have “solidifyi[ed]...as a core category in the back-to-school shopping season.” Projected spending on electronics accounts for 40.6% of K-12 spending growth. According to an Arlington Public School study conducted by NC State University in 2019, device usage consisted of 40% of elementary classroom time, 53% of middle school classroom time, and 58% of classroom in high school. Those numbers have obviously increased during the intervening years as many schools were forced to close and move entirely remote during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of those experiences, many classrooms around the country have become more digitally integrated. Electronics will remain a key tool for students as they complete and collaborate on school assignments in the coming years. This essential category will also continue to drive consumer back-to-school spending. Unfortunately, electronic component shortages have decreased the global supply of electronic devices, which is driving prices up. According to a recent survey conducted by IPC, “seven in ten electronics manufacturers expect to raise prices between 7% and 8% in 2022.”
Extended Shopping Season
Inflation concerns are driving consumers to start shopping for school and college earlier in hopes of finding deals. 56% of families started purchasing back-to-school items in early July. That is an increase of 5 percentage points from 2021. That may not sound like a significant shift in consumer behavior, but in 2019, only 44% of families began shopping in early July. Early shoppers are impacting how and when retailers begin advertising back-to-school items. This extended shopping season will also extend well into August. 42% of families didn’t receive back-to-school lists until the end of July, which means August still be a strong month for retailers.
Our team has deep expertise in consumer products and retail strategy, so we understand the significance of the back-to-school shopping season for retailers. Combined, our team has over 50 years of retail experience. Unlike other consulting firms, we partner with your team and help your company execute on our strategic recommendations. If you need expertise in developing and executing your next strategic retail development plan, our team would love to connect with you. Schedule your no-obligation consultation today.