As the pandemic recedes and prices continue to climb, parents may be nervous about the upcoming back-to-school spending season.
Last year, families spent roughly $32.5 billion on books, clothes and other supplies as kids returned to in-class learning, according to Deloitte market consultants. That’s more than $600 per student. This year, with inflation a concern, “Price and value are key drivers of purchase decisions,” according to analysts at mobile marketing company InMobi.
Major retailers are gearing up accordingly. Utilizing key tools in their arsenals, companies are ready to engage in the competition for consumers’ cash. Here’s how they’re approaching this shopping season:
At Walmart, “We’ve worked hard to deliver sought-after back-to-school products at the everyday low prices (consumers) expect,” says Ana Arguello, vice president of stationery.
Michelle Wlazlo, chief merchandising officer at JCPenney, says the company is focusing on ensuring consumers get more for their money.
“We know value is more important than ever this year,” she says. “This season, we will have back-to-school deals and doorbusters each week … (from) early July through late August.”
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With a wide portfolio of products and brands, “We have greater flexibility to make pricing decisions and we’re continuously monitoring costs to ensure we’re price competitive,” Wlazlo says. “We are committed to offering apparel, home and core basic products at reasonable prices, delivering value for our customers.”
Old Navy is also focused on keeping prices in check. “This year, we announced our new Price ON-Lock — a commitment to locking prices on the brand’s everyday kids fashion essentials, despite inflationary market pressures,” says the company’s general manager of merchandising Andres Dorronsoro.
“We know our customers are looking for value on quality and (on-trend) styles. This back-to-school season, we’re excited to provide fashionable, durable and affordable pieces to families,” Dorronsoro says.
Back-to-school shopping online
Under growing pressure from online giant Amazon, major retailers are putting special emphasis this year on web strategies.
“As we’ve seen in the last several quarters with our e-commerce growth, we expect our customers will continue to do more of their back-to-school shopping online,” Arguello says. Walmart, therefore, is aligning its online and in-store strategies, so that all channels will reflect the best deals “no matter how or where our customers want to shop.”
Old Navy will leverage the functionality of its website to help drive greater convenience. “Our online shopping experience offers both breadth and curation,” Dorronsoro says. “We have enabled parents to shop by size, trend and look, while accessing the widest selection of products.”
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Likewise, JCPenney is looking to the web to support consumer demands for a streamlined shopping experience.
“We’re making it easy to shop for basics while offering inspiration with on-trend products,” Wlazlo says. “We’re also updating the denim experience with our denim fit tool, making it easier to shop and drive confidence when purchasing jeans online.”
At the same time, the retailer is looking to cross-pollinate, offering ways for consumers to combine their online and in-person shopping. “We bring the online and in-store experiences together to make it even more convenient for the customer,” Wlazlo says. “Options of buy online, pick up in store and ship to store mean you can place your order and pick up items at a location that’s convenient.”
Walmart is taking a similar approach, making more products available for pick up and delivery, Arguello says.
With retailers competing on both price and selection while building up the links between online and in-store experiences, parents will likely have a wide range of options as they fill those backpacks for the upcoming school year.