Amid BTS spending cuts, a way to shine

August 11, 2011

Reading, writing and arithmetic probably won’t add up to much for supermarkets this Back-to-School season.

Retailers topping off their Back-to-School displays should temper their consumer spending expectations for two reasons:  the iffy economy has families spending only what’s necessary, and household budgets are already stretched by double-digit apparel price hikes resulting from higher cotton costs.

Families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $603.63 on apparel, school supplies and electronics, down a bit from $606.40 last year, extrapolated the National Retail Federation, in its 2011 Back-to-School survey conducted by BIGresearch.

These large seasonal expenses could hit supermarkets another way too; they could cap what shoppers feel they’re able to spend on family food in the rest of the store, believes The Lempert Report. Stores would start to experience this now, since NRF says a high percentage of BTS shoppers (42.4%) will begin their shopping within three to four weeks of the start of the academic year, presumably to delay the impact of these costs.

Supermarket share of school supplies sales is limited. To raise their profile during this season, food stores might want to learn from a Macy’s campaign. The department store retailer is donating $1 to youth volunteer group each time customers scan a QR code from the chain’s mstylelab departments (formerly junior’s and young men’s) or “like” the mstyle Facebook page, from this week through October 15 up to a maximum donation of $250,000. The QR code launches fashion trend videos and information on volunteer opportunities. Macy’s connects with its youthful target audience on matters they feel passionate about.

The separate NRF Back-to-College Survey says parents and students will spend an average of $808.71 on apparel, electronic, furnishings and food, down from $835.73 last year.  

An overwhelming 83.7% of respondents state the economy will limit their spending plans, and lead to more store brand or generic purchases (38.0%), online shopping comparisons (30.7%), making do with last year’s items (29.7%) and spending less overall (44.6%), according to the study.