An Outlook of the Back-to-School Shopping Season: Now until October

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Labor Day is just around the corner, which means that Back-to-School shopping is in high gear. All across North America, parents and their children are heading out to department, apparel, office supply, and discount stores to stock up on clothing, school supplies, and more. The upcoming weeks will provide a number of opportunities for retailers in these sectors to maximize on demand. And as always, the weather will represent a major external challenge for retailers which will determine when and how consumers shop this Back-to-School Season.

Planalytics recently partnered with Fung Global Retail & Technology for their Back-to-School Outlook webcast to provide information on what retailers can expect throughout the season. You can find a complete recording of the webcast here, but below are several key points retailers should be aware of in order to take advantage of key sales opportunities.

Back to School Sales Will Rise in the Early Parts of the Season: Fung Global Retail & Technology expects early back-to-school sales in July & August to rise 2%-3% this year, compared to 0.4% last year. This is slightly below the average increase of 3.8%.

Overall Back-to-School/Back-to-College Spending to Rise Big: The National Retail Federation estimates spending to rise 11.5% in 2016 to $75.8 billion. The average Back-to-School family is expected to spend as much as 7% more than last year. Interestingly enough, college families plan to spend slightly more than 1%  less. However, total college spending will rise 12.5% because of the increase in Back-to-College consumers.  In total, 87% of parents intend to spend the same or more compared to last year.

The Major Sales Drivers Will Be Apparel and School Supplies: Clothing and accessories, the largest category, is expected to represent 34.9% of total Back-to-School sales. School supplies are projected to represent 16.0% of total Back-to-School sales. Retailers in these spaces should expect to see heavy sales in the upcoming months directly related to Back-to-School consumer demand.

How Could the Weather Impact Back-to-School Sales?

The months of August, September, and October are very weather-sensitive. Cooler temperatures in a region could easily influence whether or not consumers decide to pull the trigger on Back-to-School merchandise. Planalytics predicts that the best year-over-year opportunities for fall categories will be in the West. August will be especially warm in the eastern two-thirds of the United States, making sales opportunities slightly more challenging until temperatures cool down.

However, temperatures are expected to become more seasonal in the Northeast after August, providing retailers with a number of opportunities to drive sales for Back-to-School items. The Pacific Northwest and Southeastern part of the United States should trend slightly warmer than normal in September. Overall, cool and dry conditions in September for much of the United States will increase demand for seasonal categories. Although the Back-to-School season will start slower, leveraging weather-driven demand to identify areas of opportunity will help maximize sales for seasonal categories.

For detailed insights specific to your business, and weather-demand opportunities and predictive analytics trends in the fall, please contact us today to speak with a Planalytics representative.