Tag: back to school

Post-it notes with emojis. Locker magnets that resemble pizza and poop. Pencil boxes featuring T.rex. These are some of the many back-to-school items currently sitting on the shelves of a Wal-Mart store in Toronto.

But Rhonda Johnson, of Unionville, Ont., skipped all of that during a recent visit as she was browsing through the store with her nine-year-old son, Jahziah.
“I am the type of parent who buys something that is going to be functional and serve its purpose,” she says. “It’s going to be plain. It’s not going to be glittery.”

Back-to-school supplies, particularly stationery, have changed considerably in recent years, and are now marketed as “fashionable” items. Some feel the items allow kids to express themselves, but others argue that they detract from learning and are a waste of money.
Ms. Johnson finds fun, fashion-forward stationery expensive and “unnecessary.”

“I do not conform to society’s way of dragging you into certain trends,” she says.
The 42-year-old buys only unadorned stationery for her son, and it has always been that way for him and his older brother, Dre.
But that hasn’t stopped Jahziah from asking for a Pokemon binder or a notebook graced with the Minions from Despicable Me.
“I’ve said no for so long … [but] he still asks because it’s attractive,” Ms. Johnson says. “It’s marketing.”
Meanwhile, some 40 students in a small town in Britain won’t be allowed to use fancy gadgets at school, but not because their parents said so.

Ian Goldsworthy, a Grade 6 teacher at a school in Potters Bar, slightly north of London, has banned novelty stationery – erasers in the form of nail polish, that new “it” plastic water bottle, pencil cases almost taller than the child carrying them – from his classroom.
“It was causing too many arguments,” he says, noting that his students would flaunt the latest gimmick and wait for others to notice, get distracted when someone pulled out something shiny or sparkly and become obsessed when things went missing.

He says he had enough around Easter of 2016, when he asked his students to empty their desk drawers and put anything that they didn’t need for the lesson at hand in their backpacks.
“It wasn’t a big revolt,” he says. “There was some disappointment, but they were pretty understanding.”
They talked about the reason behind his decision as a class.
“It wasn’t me just saying from [up] high, ‘This is how it’s going to be,'” Mr. Goldsworthy says. “They could see the logic of the argument. [They] knew it would help [them] focus.”

On the first day of school every year, Mr. Goldsworthy draws up a classroom contract with his students about the rules they think will best support their learning. He’ll be adding “only bring in stationery I need” this time.
Not all teachers feel the same way.

Liane Zafiropoulos, who teaches Grade 5 at a school in Ajax, Ont., doesn’t have a problem with trendy stationery. She says her students already know the general rule that only items that infringe on their learning will be banned.
“As long as the children are writing and learning, I am happy,” she says.
The 40-year-old keeps a treasure box of special stationery in her classroom, which she lets students pick from whenever they exhibit good behaviour.
Ms. Zafiropoulos says children’s stationery is an expression of their individuality. “We might as well put them in uniforms if we are going to give them all plain pencils,” she says.
But what bothers Ms. Zafiropoulos is that some of her students cannot afford certain back-to-school supplies. “They illustrate how commercialism consumes us,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s the corporations who get richer and the families who suffer.”

Households in Canada are expected to spend $883 on back-to-school shopping this year, up from $450 last year, according to a recent Angus Reid poll of more than 1,500 Canadians.
David Lewis, an assistant professor of retail management at Ryerson University, says manufacturers are trying to make stationery – what was traditionally a relatively utilitarian and straight-forward type of product – more “hedonistic.”
“If you can turn a pencil into a toy, then it creates an entirely new market for existing products,” he says, adding that stationery is now “more fun, exciting and pleasurable.”
Mr. Lewis also sees interesting parallels between how cereal and stationery are marketed to children these days. He says both products serve different purposes for the purchaser and the influencer. “Parents are looking at nutrition,” he says. “Kids are looking at fun,” which means cartoon characters and bright food colouring.

It’s the same with stationery, where parents are evaluating functions, while kids are concerned with fun and being unique, Mr. Lewis says.
Patty Sullivan, a Toronto mother of two, doesn’t mind.
“It makes [my kids] more willing to go back to school,” she says. “They complain less.”
She also sees it as a way for children to personalize their stuff and show their friends what they like. She recently bought 18 scented markers – which smell like cotton candy, cappuccino, evergreen trees and brick oven – for $10 at a DeSerres art supply store.
If Canadian schools were ever to follow in Mr. Goldsworthy’s footsteps, she thinks teachers should consult parents first. It would be kind of a big deal for her children, she says.
Her six-year-old, Aliyah, says she would feel “bad,” as would her 10-year-old sister, Veronica.
“I would probably feel disappointed and depressed,” says Veronica. “I like seeing my happy and amusing [stationery] in class.”
A retired elementary school teacher in London, Ont., can still relate to that feeling.
It’s why Debra Rastin discouraged – instead of banned – her students from using pencils with anything at the end, from 2010 to 2015, the last five years of her career. Whether it was trolls with blue hair or soccer balls, she considered them “toys” and too distracting.
But the 63-year-old also remembers what it’s like to be 6 and excited about having something new to bring to school.
“Fifty years ago, a pack of pencil crayons was fashion-forward,” she says.

By Chris Young for The Globe and Mail

Back-to-school season has long been a critical sales event for retailers, but 2017 may go down as a year that defies the trends as shoppers play a waiting game for sales.

Kids started back to school this month, but as of early August just 45% of shoppers have checked everything of their list, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. It’s the lowest number since 2012.

However, 2012 was a record year for back-to-school spending as shoppers indulged in pent-up demand following the spending lull of the Great Recession. In all consumers shelled out a whopping $83.8 billion, according to NRF that year and are projected to spend $83.6 billion in 2017, up more than 10% from 2016.

And 2017 is off to a slow and worrying start. Many began early, according to NRF, researching needed items, perusing online class lists and comparing prices. But traffic has slowed in August and it’s anybody’s guess if it will pick back up.

What are shoppers waiting for? Discounts, suggests Prosper Insights & Analytics (and fellow Forbes contributor) Pam Goodfellow. This trend follows that of the winter holiday season, where consumer play a game of chicken with retailers, waiting and watching prices drop as the deadline gets closer.

In this regard, back-to-school 2017 could be a preview for the holiday season to come. Already, early reports indicate retailers could have a banner winter holiday season, particularly when it comes to e-commerce, where sales are projected to rise some 16.6%, according to eMarketer.

“People are confidently spending more and really spreading out their shopping throughout the season,” Katherine Cullen, director of retail and consumer research at NRF, told Retail Dive in an interview. The association still expects spending to be higher in aggregate this year than last, but with so many waiting, back-to-school is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

By Laura Heller for Forbes.com 

Americans start their back-to-school searches in July, despite the fact that schools won’t open for two more months.

Here’s why: it’s the second-biggest shopping holiday of the year.

The second biggest — who’d have thought that, right? Back-to-school spending is second only to the December holiday season.

Research shows that families with K-12 kids spend an average of $674 on the hottest sneakers, fashion trends, electronics, calculators and binders — and even more money for college-bound students.
In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, in 2016 back-to-school spending hit $75.8 billion. (Can I hear a collective “ouch” from all the parents out there?)

Which means for digital marketers, planning needs to start now. Below you’ll find two assignments (plus helpful insights) designed to help you move to the head of the class this back-to-school season.

Assignment #1: Find out who’s buying and plan your bid modifiers
Increased traffic means you need an increased budget. And to maximise those budget dollars, you first need to know exactly who you’re targeting and then build meaningful campaigns.

According to research done by my colleagues at Bing, 32 percent of back-to-school shoppers are aged 35 to 49, and 31 percent are 50 to 64, with the primary customer being female and a mom.

But don’t forget — although mom may be footing the bill, her K-12 kids are dropping not-so-subtle hints about what they want.

On the other hand, college freshmen outfitting their dorms are relying on Mom and Dad to guide their decisions. It’s critical that you segment your audiences with demographic targeting, keeping in mind key influencers.

This means that you’ll need to create a separate set of ads to attract each of these different segments. Thankfully, with demo-based bid modifiers offered by search engines, you can make your ads feel more personalized.

In addition, make sure you’re segmenting by geography as well, so you can optimize not just based on season and local trends but also based on peak periods for each location.

As always, don’t forget to look at last year’s performance data, to help you optimize this year’s campaigns.

Extra credit: Be there for teachers

Teachers are unsung heroes who invest heavily in the next generation — often with their own hard-earned money. Thanks to increasingly tight school budgets, most teachers spend an average of $500 on their classroom, and some teachers report spending $1,000 or more.

Consider donating classroom items or a percentage of your sales to local schools or even offering a buy-one-give-one promotion. Calling out these promotions in your ad campaigns will encourage customers to shop with you, trust your brand, and feel good about their purchases.

And you can feel good about helping teachers.

Assignment #2: Determine what they’re searching for

Of course, for campaign success, you need to know what your shoppers are looking for. And the answers are all in the data.

Take time to examine trends related to your products and uncover the top-searched terms, as well as the days and times folks are looking.

For example, thanks to Bing data, we know that the most popular back-to-school search category is apparel (shoes and clothing), at 58.5 percent, and click-through rates are high in July and August.

So, for these months, consider optimizing your shopping campaigns with enhancements such as merchant promotions, sale pricing and review extensions, as well as highlighting local inventory.

Oh, and by the way…

Sometimes back-to-school shoppers are searching for what we don’t really expect, such as bed and bath products. Searchers on Bing (as compared to Google searchers) are 16 percent more likely to have spent between $200 to $499 on bed and bath products in the last six months. Optimizing for these products could yield some sweet-smelling profits.

Technology is also a big back-to-school category, and we know that these shoppers do plenty of online research before committing.

Running ads for searches higher in the purchase funnel can be very effective in these cases. For example, an ad for a tablet early in the shopping season may use unbranded search terms and include more detailed ad copy as well as review extensions. But an ad for that same tablet later in the season may have less detail but would also include branded search terms.

Speaking of brand, how does brand vs. non-brand factor in?

Below I’ve highlighted a few search stats and tips from Bing that indicate clear trends in some key back-to-school categories.

Clothes

72 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
Top unbranded searched terms: t-shirts, shirts for teen girls, and cute plus-size outfits
Tip: Including an ad showing the product in use or multiple colors of the item can help the image grab attention.

Laptops & tablets

76 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
Top unbranded searched terms: best deals tablets, tablets and best tablet deal
Tip: Influence shoppers with customer reviews using a review extension, and if your product is on sale, be sure to use the sales price column in your product feed.

School supplies

81 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
Top unbranded searched terms: calculator, scientific calculator, portfolio
Tip: Consider offering a coupon and try a broad match modifier for unbranded terms.

Furniture, décor, and bed & bath

88 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.
Top unbranded searched terms: furniture, furniture stores, mattress stores, memory foam mattress
Tip: Personalize what shows in your ad with dynamic text parameters. Showing the product in use, e.g., a rug shown on the floor of a room, can be especially helpful for this category as it provides context to the shopper.

Boost your popularity: Discover where your audience is hanging out
Did you know that back-to-school shoppers plan to purchase from only an average of three websites? Finding out where your customers are spending time online (and where they’ll make their purchases) is critical to getting your campaigns in front of them.

You can also maximize your marketing ROI by syncing your ad investments with other campaigns. Now that you have your assignments, it’s time to kick campaign planning into high gear, so you can edge out your back-to-school competitors.

By Purna Virji for www.searchengineland.com

Back to school – for some

As parents and children prepare for the beginning of the 2017 academic year in Gauteng, some children still do not know whether they will be able to attend school this year.

According to Oupa Bodibe, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Education, on 9 January about 58 000 children still needed to be placed in schools across the province. This means that most of those children will miss the first day of school.

DA Shadow MEC for Education, Khume Ramulifho has reiterated his party’s call that all schoolchildren must be placed by the first day of school. “Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi must prioritise all learners who applied to be placed in schools last year to ensure they start learning from day one,” Ramulifho said.

He lamented that there were still many children who were yet to be placed, despite applying on time.

Ramulifho urged Lesufi to provide more resources to schools with high demand. “These include more classrooms, teachers and materials.” He said parents were put in a difficult financial position when their children were not placed, as they could not budget for uniforms and school fees. Adding that the online registration process should be used to plan and manage placements with necessary resources.

Meanwhile, Lesufi has assured parents that their children will be placed soon. The department has asked for patience from parents, especially those who applied late, highlighting that their children would be placed by at least the end of February.

Source: www.randburgsun.co.za

BIC reports strong BTS sales

BIC has reported that its stationery net sales for the first nine months of 2016 decreased by 0,6% but grew by 4,6% on a constant currency basis.

In Europe, the increase in nine-month net sales was in the high single-digits. The back-to-school sell-out was good, especially in France (where BIC gained market share for the 12th year in a row) and in the UK.

In North America, BIC registered low-single digit growth in the nine-month period. Market growth during back-to-school was in the mid-single digits (in value terms) with gains market share thanks notably to the performance of its top selling products.

Sales growth was in the low-single digIts in Latin America, with gains in market share in Brazil. In the Middle-East and Africa, BIC delivered very strong growth along with market share gains in South Africa and a good performance in Morocco.

Source: www.office-times.com

Is this the end of back-to-school?

Traditionally, the back-to-school season has been one of the biggest for the stationery industry. But a new plan by the Department of Education could see this lucrative period become a thing of the past.

National policy
In 2014, the South African government drafted the National Policy for the Provision and Management of Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) for public comment.

The policy is intended to guide the provision and management of LTSM, including textbooks, home economics equipment and science laboratory equipment, and is aimed at all levels in the system, from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to provinces, districts and schools. This will affect all public (government) schools in the country.

LTSM is defined as a variety of learning and teaching materials used in classroom. These range from teacher- and learner-created resources to commercially produced classroom resources such as wall charts, workbooks, textbooks, e-books, readers, stationery, science kits, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and so on.

A recent article by The Daily Maverick discussing e-tenders and the procurement process stated that in education, procurement centralisation had reduced the costs of a year’s learning material and stationery pack to R130, down from R460, for each of the country’s 12-million pupils.

Minimum schoolbag
This pack is known as the “minimum schoolbag”, and is determined by grade and subject. It includes, among other things:

  • Exercise books
  • Exam pads
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Sharpener
  • Eraser
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Pencil case
  • Flip file

According to a Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, the Gauteng Department of Education has appointed three service providers in the province for the management and distribution of LTSM for the 2017 school year. These companies are Zylec Investments (textbooks), African Paper Products (stationery) and Palm Stationery Manufacturers (stationery). Bongani Rainmaker Logistics will be responsible for placing orders with these service providers.

A circular published by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education indicated it will be distributing “stationery items in the form of phase-specific learner packs for use in 2017” to selected schools. It also indicated that schools may utilise the “LTSM Other” allocation to supplement “non-learner stationery items such as photocopy paper, teachers’ files and stationery for classroom use”.

The way forward
While the government has arguably struggled with service delivery in the past – most memorably with the Limpopo textbook debacle of 2012 – they are now ramping up efforts to deliver on promises. Procurement has been made more efficient and less corrupt through the e-tender platform, and tender information is publicly available so that service providers are held accountable. It may not happen next year, or even in the next five years, but the chances are good that LTSM will be rolled out across all nine provinces by 2022.

Figures from 2013 show that there are 11 975 844 learners in 24 136 public schools, while there are only 513 804 learners in 1 584 independent (private) schools. This implies an enormous loss of consumers for which parents need to buy stationery.

The stationery industry will need to rethink its position in the market if it is to survive this onslaught on its most lucrative season of the year.

The fashion brand Kate Spade is most known for luxury handbags. But it is also banking on gold-accented staplers, monogrammed planners and R450 ballpoint pens to help buoy sales during the increasingly important back-to-school shopping season.

The discount retailer Dollar Tree is also expecting students and their parents to lift sales, particularly after an unusually weak second quarter. But instead of fancy notebooks, it is focusing on the other end of the price spectrum, like R15 packs of tape, glue sticks, and pencils.

As the income gap in the United States has turned into a chasm, luxury and discount retailers have become increasingly deft at attracting people at the separate ends of the income spectrum. Stores positioned for the middle, like traditional department stores, have struggled by comparison.

These days, that divide extends more than ever to what students wear and carry with them to their school lockers.

“Both luxury retailers and value stores, like dollar stores, are benefiting right now from the back-to-school trend,” says Jharonne Martis, a retail analyst with Thomson Reuters. “They’re really benefiting from their core consumer.”

Parents expect to spend an average of $673.57 on electronics, clothes and notebooks this year, compared with $630.36 last year, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group. In total, parents of kindergarten through 12th-grade students say they will spend $27,3-billion on school supplies this year, up from $18,4-billion in 2007.

The back-to-school season is the second-biggest shopping period of the year, behind Christmas. But while families will spend more than before, how they will do it — and where they will do it — varies widely.

A growing list of designer notebooks, luxury desk accessories and even beanbag chairs now caters to wealthy back-to-school shoppers. Shoppers can buy a $195 Gucci headband, a $572 Versace backpack, and a $28 Terez pencil case on the back-to-school section of Saks’ website. Restoration Hardware has a new “teen” line that includes a $2,000 “riveted aluminum” desk and $250 faux fur beanbag chairs.

Martis said she expected Kate Spade’s desk accessories and stationery products to be a big focus this season, projecting that sales would rise 7 percent this quarter at stores open at least a year. (The company said it could not make executives available for an interview.)

But back-to-school items are also expected to buoy sales at discount retailers like T.J. Maxx, whose appeal is increasingly wide and which aim at the growing number of poor students and families in the United States.

In 2007, about 9-million public school students came from low-income households, according to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. In 2014, there were more than 11-million, according to the most recent data.

Some of these families rely on backpack drives and other support from nonprofit or community groups. Many, though, are left seeking the best deals.

Retailers, including the discount stores, have responded by pushing bigger promotions earlier in the shopping season. That, in turn, has seemed to push people to do research on their own: Back-to-school search queries rose sharply the week of July 11, a full week earlier than last year, according to data released recently by Google.

Retailers who cater to middle-class consumers have been struggling, slashing prices in what has become an aggressive race to the bottom.

Sales at traditional department stores have slumped, and once-mighty institutions like Macy’s and Sears have had to close stores.

By Rachel Abrams for the New York Times

Tech is top-of-mind for BTS shoppers

Nearly three of every five back-to-school shoppers this year expect to purchase some type of technology item, be it a smartphone, tablet, portable memory drive, calculator or headphones, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

That figure (59%) is a full 12% higher than consumers who said the same thing last year, according to the CTA. All told, consumers are expected to spend $18.5 billion on back-to-school tech products this year (up 6.5% over last year).

“This growth in tech spend is a reflection of tech becoming a frequently used medium for learning and commonplace in schools across the country,” says Janvier Depeazer, senior research analyst for CTA.

“At this point, tech is being used for teaching all different ages, and for many older students it’s becoming a required need for success in high school and college.”

Among the top items shoppers are expecting to purchase are portable memory sticks (71% of consumers expect to purchase them), basic calculators (55%), headphones (52%) and laptops (44%).

“Compared to last year, the top anticipated back-to-school tech purchase remained the same as portable memory, and the top five tech items remain the same but the order differs,” Depeazer says.

Other expected purchases include carrying or protective cases (48%), software (39%) and product subscriptions (22%).

Nearly all (95%) of BTS shoppers plan to visit brick-and-mortar stores to make these purchases, including mass retailers (88%), office supply stores (56%) and department stores (47%). Only 36% plan to visit a consumer technology store, according to the organization.

“Generally, a tech purchase decision that involves more research may result in an in-store purchase after a chance to interact/demo the product and ask questions to salespeople,” Depeazer says.

Even so, nearly half (49%) of shoppers will also hit online retailers including online-only retailers (80%), retailer Web sites (69%) and auction Web sites (35%).

By Aaron Baar for www.mediapost.com

Just one month after a judge put the kibosh on a merger between America’s two biggest office supply retailers, the companies are going head-to-head to win customers.

In preparation for one of its busiest sales periods of the year, Office Depot says it will hire 33% more US workers this summer, to beef up its customer service for teachers, students and parents during the back-to-school season. That translates to an additional 2 000 workers compared with last summer, for a total of 8 000 new hires.

The news comes a day after Staples, the larger of the two competitors, said it will offer same-day delivery in several major markets for a fee of $14.99.

“This is our big season, the back-to-school season, so this is when we do the most of our seasonal hiring,” Lynn Gross, Office Depot’s vice president of human resources for retail, told CNBC. “[This year’s boost is] not necessarily related to the merger, but it definitely, I think, is a sign that we are moving forward as a stand-alone company and focused on providing superior customer service.”

Gross said most of the summer hires will assist with in-store needs such as stocking shelves, helping customers and working the checkout register. The retailer is also putting a big emphasis on its buy online, pick up in store service, so the hires will also help with those needs. However, Gross said the seasonal employees’ duties will fall roughly in line with previous summers.

Because the retailer closed 181 US stores in 2015, the incremental hires will translate into about five more employees per store, she added.

Seasonal associates typically work 22 to 28 hours a week, and their time does not cut into existing employees’ hours, Gross said. In general, seasonal employees work from July through September, depending on a market’s school calendar. Though Office Depot could not provide specific numbers, some of these employees are brought on permanently.

Gross declined to comment on pay, except to say that the company’s compensation practices vary by market, and that it does its best to stay competitive.

Staples did not respond to CNBC’s request for information on its back-to-school plans.

Since a May court ruling declared Office Depot and Staples’ merger a bust, analysts have questioned whether both could continue to exist as stand-alone companies. Staples management was quick to lay out its plan for growth, which includes closing more of its North America stores and ramping up its offerings for businesses. Its recovery plan hit a bump last week, when CEO Ron Sargent resigned.

As for Office Depot, management has offered few details regarding its strategies. The company said it has hired consulting firm Bain & Co. to assist with identifying strategic alternatives, and last month, it announced a $100-million stock repurchase programme.

In their attempt to merge, the two retailers argued Amazon was transforming the market for office supplies. But that argument was rejected.

By Krystina Gustafson for www.cnbc.com

Many children experience some degree of “back-to-school anxiety” as the school year begins. Typical stressors may include worries about making new friends, managing new or difficult teachers, increased academic workload, or being away from parents, or transitional issues, such as starting at a new school or moving into middle or high school. Whereas some school-related anxiety is normal, excessive anxiety and worry can negatively affect a child’s functioning at school, as well as with peers and at home.

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