While the four to five week time period post-Thanksgiving and into December will likely always be the most critical time of year for retailers, the back-to-school shopping season isn’t far off in terms of importance.
In fact, in some ways back-to-school shoppers can have an even larger impact on a retailers’ bottom line than they do during the holidays. A good back-to-school season leaves a merchant with a little more wiggle room for holiday shopping a few months later, while a poor early autumn can leave a retailer scrambling to try to make up the difference once the holidays roll around.
Many merchants, both brick and mortar and their online counterparts, are already thinking about back-to-school shopping even though the calendar has yet to turn to July.
And according to a new PriceGrabber.com forecast, that’s a smart move, because shoppers seem intent on stretching their back-to-school dollars as much as possible as the economy continues to alter traditional spending habits.
The survey of 1,718 online shoppers conducted between May 12 and June 1 provides some good insight that merchants should capitalize on and employ for their back-to-school shopping strategies.
Most glaring among the results is that only 14 percent of those polled plan to spend more this back-to-school season than they did in 2009. Conversely, 45 percent will spend the same amount as last year and 41 percent plan to spend less.
Furthermore, a majority of respondents (64 percent) haven’t saved a dime for the back-to-school season and have no plans to do so. Less than one in five shoppers started saving for the school buying rush prior to April and only 17 percent started saving sometime between April and now.
As such, those merchants who are anticipating a rush of consumer spending on school supplies, clothing and electronics for September are likely in for a big surprise.
What is likely to unfold instead is a gradual and prolonged search for back-to-school items by shoppers; 49 percent of respondents will be spreading their purchases out over time to better cope with the costs. About one-quarter of the survey participants (26 percent) planned to make purchases for back-to-school prior to July, while 31 and 38 percent anticipate starting the shopping process in July and August respectively.
“We are not surprised to see this new, optimistic trend of consumer frugality extend to back-to-school shopping,” says Laura Conrad, president of PriceGrabber.com. “Further analysis of the data supports the idea that consumers are trying to absorb back-to-school spending in their monthly budgets by starting their shopping early to distribute their purchases.”
So there you have it. The moral of today’s blog is not to wait until later this summer to get going on back-to-school. If you’re a retailer, you should already be working on your promotions, offerings, and sales because, obviously, the shoppers are ready to buy right now and will continue looking all summer.
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