Back to School Shopping Preview 2017

eMarketer expects a strong back-to-school season for 2017, with overall retail sales increasing 4.0% and retail ecommerce sales jumping 14.8%. Although topline numbers show healthy online and offline growth, a dive into the core back-to-school sectors shows the continuing shift to ecommerce, albeit with the majority of back-to school shopping still occurring in-store.

  • Despite overall US retail sales experiencing healthy growth in 2017, key sectors are suffering, including office supply and stationery stores, which saw sales drop 7.3% in Q1; clothing and accessory stores, which slipped 2.2%; and electronics and appliance stores, which fell 3.8%.
  • Most growth in total retail sales for 2017 will come from gas stations, building supplies and auto dealers.
  • Nearly one-third of US parents make a back-to-school purchase via a smartphone, and one-quarter use their phones to research or compare prices of such purchases.
  • The two leading online and offline retailers for back-to-school shopping are Amazon and Walmart, and this season should see heated competition between the two.
  • The timing of the back-to-school season varies, with the earliest bump coming around college acceptance letters and graduation when it comes to purchasing electronics and dorm supplies, and the latest coming for apparel after school starts.
  • Back-to-school shopping has multiple decision-makers: parents, students, teachers and peers. Price is important for all groups, but parents focus more on practicality while students center on style. Retailers need to segment their messaging strategy accordingly.


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