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Study Up for the Back-to-School Retail Boom of 2023

Last year we saw back-to-school spending reach record highs, and this year is shaping up to be even bigger for retailers. The oldest members of Generation Alpha are now 13 years old, and Gen Z is heavily represented in both high school and college. All students are back in the classroom full-time, and parents and students alike are looking for products in new ways that are specific to their generational tastes. All this is happening while inflation rates dominate consumers’ overall spending habits, making discounts and availability more important than brand loyalty. Brands must ensure they are informed about how consumers will approach this year’s back-to-school boom, or else risk failing the big test.

Learning from the 2022 Back-to-School Retail Season

2022 showed how important the back-to-school spending trend is, with a record high $34.4 billion spent despite the downturn in overall retail sales due to inflation. This year is shaping up to follow this trend, with 38% of consumers saying they are cutting back on other spending to focus on back-to-school purchases. According to the NRF, 56% of consumers are starting their back-to-school shopping as early as July. Starting early means shoppers have time to seek out the best deals. Shopping for dorm essentials and school supplies will continue as students receive their lists from schools, so retailers must be ready for wave upon wave of back-to-school shoppers.

Planogram Maintenance

Planogram maintenance is an essential strategy for keeping up with the record-high numbers of back-to-school shoppers. The RMS Planogram Maintenance Program keeps shelves stocked to capacity, reconciles count inaccuracies with store personnel, and ensures that displays are clean and generally looking their best. Ongoing planogram retail merchandising services reduce out-of-stock events by 23% on average. Consumers who find their desired item out of stock will move on to another brand, so make sure you are ready to get top marks in every wave of back-to-school shopping.

A Back-to-School Retail Strategy for Every Generation

At this moment, every segment of the population is shopping differently. But for everyone from Generation Alpha to Baby Boomers, social media is a big part of the picture. Most of Generation Alpha has had smartphones from a young age and are already heavily engaged in social media before they start shopping for themselves. Generation Alpha is mostly parented by Millennials, who are tuned in to the purchasing desires of their kids as well as their own consumption of social media advertising. Three out of five US parents say they look to their kids for what to buy during back-to-school shopping, while 70% of millennial parents say they’ve purchased products related to their child’s favorite character or show.

Gen Z is now part of the back-to-college shopping population, and they present particular challenges and opportunities for retailers. Brands have to meet Gen Z where they are, which at this point means reaching them on TikTok. Gen Z uses TikTok like Google, searching for products they want directly within the platform. Keywords, hashtags, and optimized content are important for any brand looking to reach Gen Z on TikTok. While Gen Z likes to build their back-to-college shopping list by engaging with social media, 55% of them still prefer to purchase products in-store.

What’s Getting Purchased

It’s no surprise that electronics continue to be a big part of back-to-college shopping. But electronic purchases are now focused more on accessories, with the sale of big-ticket items like laptops falling to 54%, the lowest it’s been since 2017. Clothing and apparel are rising in importance, as college students get used to making a statement for in-person learning. Dorm and apartment furnishings are also on the rise in the minds of Gen Z shoppers, reaching an all-time high of 57%.

Preparing for an Omnichannel Retail Strategy

Brands need merchandising partners with the know-how to meet the expectations of Gen Z shoppers. If an initiative is launched with an influencer, it’s essential that shelves are stocked before shoppers arrive. RMS’s Internal Compliance team is responsible for punctual store visits and maintaining consistent store coverage. The Compliance team audits 100% of photos taken by merchandisers, providing assurance for brands that nothing is missed. We all remember being told to check our work in school: the RMS Internal Compliance team checks the work of merchandisers to make the most of your marketing initiatives.

Consumers from every generation are looking for an omnichannel experience, with seamless transitions between online and in-store shopping. Whether they are Generation Alpha students making their first solo back-to-school purchases or Baby Boomers just warming up to social media, there are opportunities to meet consumers online through influencers that must be consummated with in-store sales. RMS provides customizable solutions for every brand’s strategy.

Contact us today to see what we can do for you!