Value, deals favorite BTS subjects

Carolina Pad’s Dreamsicle collection has been popular with mass-market consumers.

Parents may spend a bit more freely for back-to-school this year, but value still is the name of the game. Nielsen predicted an “extremely modest” sales increase for the back-to-school season, due mostly to an increase in prices compared with last year. Nielsen forecasted unit sales for the office/school supply category to drop 5.25% to 1.04 billion.

Average amount U.S. families intended to spend on suppliesSource: National Retail Federation; BIGresearch Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey

Supercenters, dollar stores and drug stores likely are to see gains in the category, according to Nielsen. “Those retailers offering strong discounts and appealing to customers’ desire for savings and value will be this year’s back-to-school winners,” said James Russo, Nielsen’s VP global consumer insights. “The drug channel may do better in the back half of the season as planning becomes less of a motivator and impulse shopping takes over.”

Cost-conscious consumers will be looking for deals and coupons, and manufacturers are planning to deliver. “We expect consumers to be focused on value,” said Tim Koletsos, director of stationery marketing at BIC Consumer Products USA. “Couponing continues to be a big focus for BIC, and during 2010, you’ll see an expanded presence.”

%of consumers planning to spend at least $250 on BTS shopping Source:
Middle/junior high62
High school50
College/junior college67

While BIC’s Koletsos expected such value products as ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil multipacks to have strong sales, he anticipated consumer demand for products that are new and different. “Fashion-barreled mechanical pencils continue to be extremely popular with students of all ages,” he said. Large ballpoint pens, which provide a bold and smooth gel-like writing experience, are an emerging category trend.

Newell Rubbermaid’s new Sharpie Liquid Pencil, which writes like a pen but erases like a pencil, should be a big hit this season as well.

There’s also room for fashion on every school-supply shopping list. “Kids expect their supplies to incorporate the trendiest colors and patterns, and their supplies function in much the same way as their clothes and accessories,” said Denise Sada, marketing manager at Mead. This year, Sada expected geometric patterns and bold florals to return as big fashion influences.

Peace signs also are a big fashion symbol this year, according to April Whitlock, a spokeswoman for Carolina Pad. The company’s Dreamsicle collection has been popular with mass-market consumers.

Students also are embracing recycled products. Mead is offering 100% recycled notebooks and folders, both with 30% post-consumer waste. Carolina Pad’s popular eco-friendly line, Sasquatch, has fresh, updated looks this year.

Paper Mate also has introduced a pen and mechanical pencil that is made with a majority of biodegradable components, which will naturally decompose in the soil or home compost in a year. The pen comes in black, blue, red or purple ink and retails for $2.50.

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