Back to School Sales

While the 2011 back-to-school shopping season (second most important event following Christmas) was highly anticipated by retailers, it was lackluster in deliverance. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2011 Back-to-School survey conducted by BIGresearch, sales were expected be a little flat, with little change from last year’s statistics. The NRF predicted, “Families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $603.63 on apparel, school supplies and electronics, within a few dollars of last year’s $606.40 average.”

Budget Concerns and Mobile Preferences

While the worst of the recession is hopefully over, its impact continues to promote frugal spending: This doesn’t just mean reuse of last year’s items and less spending, but also active price and brand comparisons. According to the survey, “Americans are compensating for the economy by purchasing more store brand or generic items (39.9 percent), comparison shopping more online (29.8 percent), and shopping for sales (50 percent).” The only boost in sales retailers expected was a slight increase in average spending on electronic devices, around $189.51.

Outside of flat sales, there was a new shopping trend this back-to-school shopping season, in which shoppers browsed, purchased and interacted with retailers’ products and services via their mobile phones. According to CNBC, “Although three out of five shoppers using smartphone devices will use it to get price information, more than two out of five say they will download discounts, coupons or sale information.” And while retailers have come to terms with multi-channel retail, perhaps impressing parents for a moment, the only thing that is going to keep their attention is a retailer who can put in the multi-channel marketing effort and also offer discount prices. “Retailers need to be prepared for a consumer who is sensitive to prices, especially with the pinch households are feeling from higher gas and energy costs this summer,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman of Deloitte and its retail and distribution sector leader.