Walmart offers lesson on driving back-to-school sales
Two factors will make 2014 one of the most competitive back-to-school (BTS) seasons ever for retailers. The first, according to the most recent National Retail Federation Back to School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, is that the average American household shopping for BTS will spend five percent more this year on those purchases than in 2013. The second is that fewer households will be shopping for BTS, meaning overall purchases will decline.
NRF’s findings serve as a backdrop for the latest news from Walmart including that the retailer has:
- Increased its inventory of BTS items by 30 percent;
- Cut prices by 10 percent;
- Offered an additional 10 percent discount to teachers during its first ever Teacher Appreciation Week (July 25 – July 31).
"Price is going to be extremely important for us, as it always is," Steve Bratspies, executive vice president, general merchandise for Walmart U.S., told Bloomberg News. "It’s about the best prices in the market on a large assortment."
NRF’s findings suggest price will remain an important factor in BTS purchasing decisions this year.
"Throughout the history of this survey, spending has fluctuated based on family needs each year, and this summer, we expect parents to continue to use caution, but also make smart decisions for their family budget that is a good balance between what their children ‘want’ and what they actually need," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, in a statement.
Walmart’s Teacher Appreciation Week offers the chain an opportunity to generate some good press along with sales.
"On average, teachers around the country spend about $1,000 readying their classrooms, and half of that comes from reaching into their own wallets to make sure students have what they need," said Mr. Bratspies in a statement. "We’ve had a commitment to supporting teachers in the communities we serve for many years. This program is one more way we’re helping lessen the cost, increase support and set teachers up for success."
- Demand for Clothing, Supplies, Electronics Drives School/College Spending Up – National Retail Federation
- Teachers Chalk Up 10 Percent Savings at Walmart’s First-Ever Teachers’ Savings Event – Walmart Stores
- Wal-Mart Cuts Prices More Aggressively for Back-to-School – Bloomberg News
Do you see price as being any more or less important to how well retailers will fare this back-to-school season? Will Walmart’s plan enable it to gain share of BTS sales? How do you see Walmart’s competitors responding?