Back-to-school season in 2020 was like nothing we have ever seen before. Students were staying home and attending online classes, apparel sales dropped that time of year since consumers were barely leaving their houses, and sales for digital products such as laptops skyrocketed. For the 2021 back-to-school season, experts are predicting a complete return to normalcy with in-person education.
“In 2019, schools were operating under normal circumstances, and then the country came to a standstill in 2020 and everyone left school and did their learning remotely,” Hemant Kalbag, Managing Director with Alvarez & Marsal’s Consumer and Retail Group, said. “Every indication is that 2021 will be completely different from last year. Almost every school and university will be open to all students and sales will be similar to those in 2019, with flat sales in consumer electronics and a significant spike expected in apparel.”
What Are Consumers Looking to Buy?
Shopkick, an app that rewards customers for shopping, surveyed more than 7,400 Americans planning to make school-related purchases in the coming months to gain insights into shopping and spending plans. While much of the 2020 school year was spent at home, 71 percent of survey respondents say the children they will be shopping for will be returning to school in-person, full-time this fall. This is a significant jump from the mere 28 percent of parents who said the same following holiday break this past January. Alternatively, seven percent say their children will be returning to school half in-person and half virtually, four percent will be learning virtually full-time, and 18 percent are not quite sure yet.
According to the survey, this year, more than half of consumers plan to spend most of their back-to-school budgets on apparel, trailed by basic school supplies, technology, dorm furnishings, and books. Kalbag also expects there to be a significant spike in apparel sales as students get back to school, as well as a dip in sales for electronics, since most students will now already have laptops or they will not need them at all. There will also be a return to normally purchased products during this season, such as stationary and small electronics like alarm clocks.
The Pandemic is Still Affecting How Consumers Shop
Despite the sense of normalcy brought on by widespread vaccinations, many consumers still expect the pandemic to impact how they shop this back-to-school season. Shopkick’s survey found that more than half of respondents are expecting to shop online more than they typically would (55%), and plan to make fewer shopping trips (53%). After a year that was difficult for many families financially, 44 percent plan to spend less on frivolous back-to-school purchases (a slight drop from the 60 percent who said the same last back-to-school season.)
Kalbag suggests a few tips for vendors to keep in mind in order to help make customers feel comfortable while shopping in person. “I recently saw a beauty salon that had shared with all of their customers which of their stylists were 100 percent vaccinated, and sharing that information about store associates is obviously a great way to communicate to consumers that you are taking COVID-19 seriously,” he said. Other ways to help shoppers feel safe is through visual signage around the store stating any extra cleaning processes in place, telling shoppers to keep socially distanced at checkout areas, and by keeping hand sanitizing stations all over your tables. Having hand sanitizer around is going to be a customer expectation from now on, so sellers should maintain things of that nature.
Shoppers Are Looking for the Best Deal
Despite the pandemic’s financial implications, 37 percent of back-to-school shoppers are planning to spend more on school essentials this year than they did last, while 39 percent expect to spend around the same amount, according to the Shopkick survey. Of those planning to up their back-to-school budget this year, reasons include decreased spending last year due to at-home learning, needing all new school supplies, and returning to pre-pandemic spending habits.
Although a majority of shoppers are not expecting to cut their back-to-school budget this year, a remaining 24 percent are planning to spend less than they did last year, with most respondents citing the pandemic as the main reason. Seventy percent of consumers say that shopping deals to get the best price will be their top priority this year, beating out safety, convenience, children’s preferences, sustainability, and more by a landslide.
This is the perfect time for flea market and swap meet vendors to shine, offering the best deals and discounts that can be found anywhere else. Take a look at some of these affordable and fashionable new back-to-school products you can offer your customers this upcoming season:
LED Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
Bluetooth speakers are a must for college students, and this speaker comes with a USB slot, micro SD card slot, a radio feature, an auxiliary port, an LED light, and a microphone in jack. It is designed to be comfortable to carry for travel and hiking trips, and can easily fit in any backpack. Can be used indoors and outdoors.
Kiko Wholesale Group USA
Color-Me Hand Puppets
These make-your-own hand puppets are great for primary school teachers who are looking for ways to engage their students. Children can make these puppets from fabric, decorate them with different art supplies (sold separately), and then they are ready for play. A set of 12 comes in each pack.
S & S Worldwide
Magnetic Locker Mirror
All high school students love a good locker mirror to make sure they look their best in between classes. This quality magnetic mirror from International Wholesale is affordable and comes in a pack of 14 with each order.
Perfect for taking notes in class, these spiral notebooks have spiral binding that prevents coil snags so it will not get caught on clothes or backpacks. Each notebook has 120 college-ruled sheets and their A grade paper quality makes them durable. Four assorted color designs come in each case purchased.
Three Leaf Products
Cursive Writing Pads
These writing pads are a great way for children to learn how to write in cursive. With 50 sheets included in each pack, there is one for every kid in the class. Each sheet measures 10.5 x 8 inches, and 24 packs come with each order.
Top Grade Products Inc.
22-Piece School Supplies Kit
Your customers can start off the next school year prepared with this 22-piece supply kit. It includes all of the necessary supplies for students of all ages, including black and blue pens, pencils, a pencil case, scissors, a ruler, erasers, and more. They come in a bulk case of 48 kits.
1″ White 3-Ring Tinted View Binder with Pockets
Available in pink, green, dark blue, and light blue, these one inch binders are perfect for storing students’ important papers and notes for class. There are two open pockets on the front and back of the binders so students can decorate with personal pictures or use it as more storage for notes.
Novelty Spinner Pens
This unique 2-in-1 fidget spinner and ballpoint pen allows users to take notes while also helping to reduce stress and boredom with the spinner on top. Fidgeting helps to promote focus and is soothing for users with anxiety and attention disorders. They also feature a plastic barrel and come in medium-point black ink.
H & J Liquidators
Kids will love nothing more than to carry their lunch in boxes that have their favorite superhero on them. This Avengers lunch box is a perfect item for a back to school sale. It comes in three superhero assortments: Spiderman, The Hulk, and Captain America.
DollarDays International, Inc.
Heart Pencil Cases
Rocky Trading Co.