National holidays impact BTS spending

According to global information firm The NPD Group, the back-to-school (BTS) shopping season in the US has experienced a shift.

The company said that the late arrival of Labour Day meant some schools started a week earlier than usual, while others started a week later. This meant that July experienced the weakest BTS retail sales in three years, although sales began to pick up in the first week of August.

NPD Office Supplies Industry Analyst Leen Nsouli said: “Retailers must take into consideration these national differences in school start dates when determining how to pace their promotional back-to-school strategies.”

Overall retail sales grew 3% in the first two weeks of August, with bricks-and-mortar and online sales increasing by 2% and 19% respectively. Though most BTS shopping occurs at physical stores, e-commerce is steadily gaining share, a trend that has been seen over the past few BTS seasons.

While online is growing in popularity as a shopping destination, NPD said it is also becoming an important part of the pre-purchase decision process. Most shoppers prefer price-saving and sales information by email, but in terms of pre-shopping research, newspaper flyers and searching a retailer’s website rank top. Interestingly, mobile is the preferred method for research, while actual online purchases are made on a laptop.

The average back-to-school shopper makes two shopping trips and ranks low prices, quality and selection as the most important qualities when deciding where to shop.

By Michelle Sturman for OPI

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