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Survey: Back-to-school shopping beginning earlier than before

BY Marianne Wilson

The back-to-school shopping season keeps kicking in earlier and earlier.

Most back-to-school shoppers (77%) plan to start at least three weeks before school begins, up from last year’s 74% and 64% a decade ago, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics. And sixty-seven of college shoppers will start that early.

Total spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion, nearly as high as last year’s $83.6 billion. Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $684.79 each, compared with last year’s $687.72 for a total of $27.5 billion. It is the third-highest total in the history of the survey following a peak of $30.3 billion in 2012 and last year’s $29.5 billion.

Families with young people heading to college as well as college and graduate students purchasing for themselves plan to spend a total of $55.3 billion. That’s an all-time high in the history of the survey, up from last year’s previous record of $54.1 billion.

According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing ($236.90), followed by electronics ($187.10) and shoes ($138.66).

“The biggest change we are seeing in back-to-school spending this year is coming from electronics,” NRF VP for research Mark Mathews. “Items like laptops, tablets and smartphones are now an everyday part of household life and aren’t necessarily a purchase parents save for the start of the school year, resulting in the slight decrease in spending for this category.”

Unlike back-to-schoolers, college shoppers will spend the most on electronics ($229.21), followed by clothing and accessories ($153.32) and dorm or apartment furnishings ($109.29).

The top destinations for back-to-school items are:

  • Department stores (57%)
  • Online retailers (55%)
  • Discount stores (52%)
  • Clothing stores (51%)
  • Office supply stores (35%)

The most popular shopping destinations for back-to-college consumers are:

  • Online retailers (49%)
  • Department stores (40%)
  • Discount stores (35%)
  • Office supply stores (31%)
  • College bookstores (30%)

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H-E-B’s purpose in focus at Elevation Forum event

BY DSN STAFF

“Only 8% of sales and marketing teams are aligned and 90% of sales leaders are not creating value in the eyes of the customer,” said Elevation Forum founder Dan Mack at his most recent event. “Alignment with another’s purpose is the catalyst for relationship transformation. And if you don’t stay deeply aligned you are more vulnerable than you think.” Mack’s focus on alignment was how he opened the event, which featured a community of entrepreneurial senior sales and marketing executives from the health and beauty industry.

The Elevation Forum began with a presentation and group discussion about the positive implications of retailer-manufacturer collaboration and higher-level co-creation. Mack emphasized that customers value someone who challenges their view of the world and who design solutions that meet customers’ needs. Almost three-quarters of companies that deliver best in class experience use customer feedback, and they incorporate the voice and insights of their customers, allowing the customer to co-create the experience to suit their needs, he said. “Half of all meetings fail due to too much talking ‘at’ before listening,” Mack noted. “The best organizations understand their customer needs instead of focusing on their own aspirations. They create meetings that don’t stir up imagination and curiosity.”

The forum’s keynote speaker was H-E-B’s vice president drug-beauty-financial services-optical and health & wellness Paul Gerner. Gerner passionately shared with the forum members a winning roadmap for building a purpose-driven relationship with H-E-B. The blueprint includes gaining a much deeper appreciation for their values and mission and how it affects their partners and consumers within the state of Texas & Mexico. H-E-B is a multi-format dominate player that competes in markets with some of the lowest grocery prices in the U.S. H-E-B desires that their manufacturing partners “level the playing field” allowing them to fulfill their mission of offering uncompromising value and connection with their communities.

The afternoon discussion asked, “How do we improve customer profitability and still thrive?” Mack shared: “Behavioral economics tell us not to assume that people are rational.  We must understand ‘hard’ facts and act courageously.  Failure to confront the truth about your profitability is a precursor to losing competitive advantage.”   In a world of temporary advantage, we must reconfigure assets, people, and capabilities to seize new opportunities. Mack said. “We need to embrace a mindset of continuous reconfiguration of the P&L,” he said. “There is no such thing as fixed expenses anymore; everything is variable which encourages flexibility and agility.”

If you are interested in learning more future forum thought leadership events, contact Dan Mack or visit the Elevation Forum website.

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Dollar Tree opens 15,000th store

BY Marianne Wilson

Extreme value discounter Dollar Tree continues to expand its store network.

Dollar Tree is celebrating its 15,000th store opening this weekend with discounts and promotions at its Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, along with grand opening celebrations at select new stores across the country.

“We are excited to have reached this important milestone in our business and we continue to see the opportunity to grow our two strong banners, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, into approximately 26,000 stores across North America,” stated Gary Philbin, president and CEO.

In related news, Dollar Tree has opened the doors to its 23rd distribution center, and another is on the way.  The centers will bolster Dollar Tree’s distribution network, which shipped and received more than 1.7 billion cases of merchandise in 2017.

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