Retailers expected to ace the back-to-school sales test
Back-to-school spending hit a record high last year as parents spent more on items such as laptops and desks for the millions of kids across America forced to attend school virtually due to the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic. This year, according to a new study, they will spend even more as their kids go back to classrooms, hopefully, full time.
U.S. retail sales are expected to grow 5.5 percent over last year during the July 15 through September 6 back-to-school period, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Sales are expected to post a 6.7 percent gain over 2019’s numbers.
“Back to school has always been a prime season for retailers. This year, the broader reopening brings an exciting wave of optimism as children prepare for another school year, and the grown-ups in their lives approach a similar ‘return to office’ scenario,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks. “This back-to-school season will be defined by choice as online sales remain robust, brick and mortar browsing regains momentum and strong promotions help retailers compete for shoppers’ wallets.”
Mastercard sees the growth during the back-to-school season as a continuation of a resurgence in retail over the past eight months. Online will remain a critical component of retailers’ selling toolboxes during the season, even as digital numbers fall 6.6 percent over last year, which still represents a 53.2 percent increase over 2019.
The move towards greater use of technology that gained a hold during the early days of the pandemic will continue this year with spending expected to jump another 13 percent.
What kids wear to go back to their classrooms full-time will also change from 2020. Apparel sales are expected to rocket up 78.2 percent year-over-year and 11.3 percent over 2019, which offers a better point of comparison.
Kids’ clothing needs are expected to benefit department stores. Mastercard is looking for sales in the vertical to improve 25.3 percent over last year and 9.5 percent over 2019. The research emphasizes that, while foot traffic will increase, it remains important for retailers to continue offering buy online and store pickup options as well as other low- or no-contact experiences.
- Back-to-School U.S. Retail Sales Expected to Grow 5.5%* Compared to Last Year, According to Mastercard SpendingPulse – Mastercard
- Coronavirus could push back-to-school spending to record level as uncertain families gear up for at-home learning – National Retail Federation
- Parents to spend even more on computers and desks as expectations of online classes increase – National Retail Federation
- What will retail’s back-to-school season look like this year? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do you see the 2021 back-to-school season shaping up for retailers? Should retailers go back to their 2019 playbooks for the new year, translate lessons learned in 2020 or come up with a completely new approach for back-to-school?