Ask @RetailPhil: You’re Late! Back to School Started in March


While hordes of parents and students descend on stores all over the country, the race is on to find the best backpack, a good deal on pencils, spill-proof lunch bags, and the newest snacks. And then (finally) the day after Labor Day, parents will breath a collective sigh of relief and kids will bemoan the starting of school.
But regardless of how stressful a time it is to have decided upon a big family, it’s really great for retailers and brands…if you did your homework and started in March.

Back to School and Get-ready-for-college season is a $27 billion business. The average family will spend $488 in school supplies to get their kids’ ready for school, with more than half of them waiting until the last few weeks of summer to run out and get the goods. (More retail numbers for this season here).

Categories that surge most are apparel, stationery, accessories (like backpacks), all of which are high margin items that will help retailers create mega profit. If you’re a smaller brand, you should be excited too…if you started planning in March.

Most industry vets in these categories start early in the year to get ready for the season. It’s a complicated exercise of coordination – retailers are always looking for the right combination of products and prices to make the most of the consumer, frantically shopping for the the best items (and trying to satisfy their little one’s budding style).

Here are five things to do to make sure you’re part of the back to school rush:

Talk to your retailer early.

Start in March! Even if they’re not ready for you yet, they’ll appreciate your forward thinking. Make sure to ask when to come back… and check in regularly.


Be ‘display ready’.

Have some way to organize and present your products in store. It could range from a floorstand (think little people with low reach) or a display tray that goes in end aisles. Remember that Back to School is a ‘season’ – sustained sales over a certain period of time. Retailers will be looking for presentation methods that create some entertainment for consumers and will catch their eye.


Know what items sell with your product.

This helps a retailer with where to put you and what consumers will be looking for when they see your product. While it seems simple or silly, it’s no coincidence that lunch bags are right next to backpacks.


[tweet_this] Back-to-School retail Tip: Know what items sell with your product. Make it easy on a retailer, and get your item added to the assortment! [/tweet_this]


Bring competitive pricing for consumers, healthy profit for retailers.

This is an important time of year, it’s not time to try and grab penny profit. You and your retailer should be after how many items you can sell and how fast you can sell it.


Be realistic about your sales forecast.

Execute on your manufacturing schedule. Make sure you work with your retailer’s logistics folks to keep the product flowing. Empty bins won’t sell your product.
It’s an exciting season to be a retailer and a brand. Back to School signals the beginning of the busiest four months of the year for retail sales. If you did your preparation in March, all you’re worried about now is keeping enough inventory as your products fly off the shelves!