Back to School

August 24, 2011: Back to School

As back-to-school season gets into full swing, economic predictions are a reminder that even in a tough economy, kids are still a hot market.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is forecasting total back-to-school (K-12) and back-to-college sales of $68.8 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent over last year. In particular, back-to-school K-12 spending is projected to climb 6.8 percent compared to 2010.

But while today’s parents want their kids to have what they need, they’re not in a spending free-for-all. In fact, a survey by American Express found 67 percent of parents plan to cut back on other expenses, including eating out and buying clothing for themselves, to afford back-to-school expenses such as braces and computers.

“Although parents are experiencing some financial pressure and adjusting their lifestyle to pay for back-to-school expenses, they’re not economizing when it comes to their kids” is how Pamela Codispoti, executive vice present and general manager of Consumer Card Services, American Express, put it in announcing the survey results.

To keep the child-related budget in check, parents are turning to social media and comparison shopping tools. A PriceGrabber survey reports that 69 percent of consumers will go online to buy or to visit comparison shopping sites. Some 41 percent will head to retailers’ sites to get coupons. And a survey done by Parents magazine and Lands’ End found that 93 percent of parents plan to visit blogs and use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter seeking back-to-school bargains.

What does it all mean for your business? Parents drive a hard bargain when it comes to their kids, so focus on offering value and letting parents know about it through all available channels. And since PriceGrabber‘s study found more parents delaying school-related purchases in hopes of scoring sweet deals, remember that even after school starts, there’s still opportunity in this market.