Rising inflation has been a pain point for retailers in not only being able to sell merchandise, but also in ordering new products and getting ready for upcoming seasons. Even though students are almost entirely back in classrooms, the back to school buying season is still not completely back to normal since consumers will be shopping for the most affordable supplies out there.
According to Jungle Scout’s Q1 2022 Consumer Trends Report, 72 percent of Americans say rising inflation has affected their spending on goods, and 70 percent are making fewer “fun” or impulse purchases. While this may seem daunting, as retailers prepare for the back to school buying season and stock up on essential supplies, the report also found that 47 percent of shoppers buy from their favorite brands due to affordability — the leading driver of brand loyalty over quality, familiarity, and sustainability. This means that your regular customers are sure to look to your brand for everything they need, especially if you entice them with special in-store offers and sales.
Customers Coming Back to Physical Storefronts
“Based on in-store and online shopping data, the back to school shopping season will look remarkably similar to the pre-COVID era as shoppers return to old habits,” Andrew Duffy, CEO and co-founder of SparkPlug, said. “We are seeing in-store shopping race back to pre-pandemic levels, with about 81 percent of sales taking place in-store and only 13 percent occurring online, according to the Census Bureau. However, pandemic-era changes now give retailers the opportunity to serve shoppers across any channel. New tools allow customers to order online and pick up in-store, view in store and order online for home delivery, and everything in between — turning the traditional in-store retail environment into an omnichannel hub.”
5WPR released its third annual Consumer Culture Whitepaper, also revealing that more than half of shoppers prefer to shop in-store instead of online. The top three elements that inspire brick-and-mortar shopping are: in-store experiences, sales staff support and advice, and an activity to share with friends. The report also mentions that 84 percent of customers say it is important for them as they return to shops that retailers are implementing safety measures.
Creating Loyal Customers
While Jungle Scout’s report found that almost half of buyers shop from their favorite brands, retailers still need to plan for new customers making their way into their storefront, and then turning them into loyal customers. Memorable experiences always start with an exceptional employee, so Duffy advises brands to ensure associates are always greeting shoppers when they walk through the door, advising the customer on how different products can fit into their lives, and showing them the actual merchandise instead of just telling them about it. Whatever you can do to create a personalized, high-touch experience for every shopper will create loyal customers that come back.
“We are also seeing that retailers who focus on maximizing their average ticket sales at high traffic times are going to be more successful than those who focus on how to increase traffic to the store,” Duffy said. “It is more efficient and cost-effective for a smaller brand to focus on selling ten percent more in each transaction than it is for them to focus on getting 1,000 more customers in the door to achieve the same result. By empowering their teams to recommend the right products to the right customers and incentivizing them to sell more products to those who are already in the store, smaller retailers can increase revenue while creating a loyal customer base.”
What Back to School Products are Shoppers Looking to Buy?
Katherine Bailey, Retail Analyst at EDITED, shared some of her insight with Independent Retailer on the types of merchandise that customers will be looking to purchase for the back to school season:
- 90s Hair Accessories.
Young students are increasingly experimenting within the confines of their school uniform on TikTok, integrating nostalgic 90s hair accessories like claw clips and small decorative barrettes. Year-over-year, the number of school hair accessories in stock has increased 40 percent. Whereas retailers have slightly reduced unicorn newness, butterfly accessories hold enormous commercial appeal within childrenswear currently, and offer an affordable trend addition to back to school ranges.
- Functional backpacks.
The functional hiking rucksacks seen across FW22 offer an alternative to the exhaustive market of licensed school backpacks. Ergonomic and with a range of storage solutions for the demands of a return to school, contemporary retailers like Zara are already showing investment.
School footwear featuring interactive elements was stocked significantly by UK retailers for the SS22 return to school, with innovation including light-up and color-changing components. Continuing these sensory enhancements across schoolwear is key in engaging with the high expectations of the growing, technologically fluent Gen Alpha demographic.
How Small Businesses Can Stand Out from Amazon
It is very easy for consumers to turn to Amazon for all of their back to school needs, so indie retailers need to shine in order to win them over. “Customers have perfected the art of online shopping, which means the market is only going to get more competitive, but there is opportunity for independent retailers, especially as customers prioritize more than just convenience,” Carrie Parker, SVP of Marketing at Cordial, said.
“In our research, we found that an overwhelming majority of consumers say they are more likely to buy from stores and brands who communicate with them in personal, relevant ways. To compete with larger brands, independent retailers have to focus on meaningful interactions with their audiences that address their specific needs. As consumers are craving personal, relevant communication from the brands they engage with, authenticity and value will be crucial to winning them over. Retailers should dig deeper into their data to uncover new ways to engage their customers, using real-time insights and advanced data models to send better messages that deliver personally relevant value to each customer.”
It all goes back to delivering exceptional personalized customer experiences — larger brands simply cannot compete with smaller retailers in this aspect. As retailers stock up on back to school supplies, they should also keep in mind all of the patriotic holidays coming up soon. Here are some affordable products to offer your customers for the back to school and patriotic seasons:
Back to School
Gratisfied Oat Bars are the perfect healthy snacks for growing children. They contain a short, simple list of ingredients you can read and recognize, are made with low-glycemic sweeteners, and baked with heart-healthy avocado oil. Additionally, they are free from all common allergens (gluten, dairy, soy, tree nuts, and peanuts), making them an excellent option for those with food intolerances and safe to take into schools.
This gorgeous 14K gold plated ring provides a perfect fashionable statement for those heading back to school next season. Featuring a bouquet of shimmering textured leaves, this adjustable yet sturdy ring is hypoallergenic.
The perfect accessory for all college students looking to add a fashionable flare to their back to school supplies, this backpack can be worn both as a backpack and as a crossbody thanks to its convertible strap. It is made in a textured vegan leather, has two side pockets, and one frontal zip one. The inside has plenty of practical compartments to organize all different kinds of supplies.
Available in a variety of popular franchises including Paw Patrol, Super Mario, Mickey Mouse, and My Little Pony, among others, these lunch bags are perfect for keeping lunches fresh. Some even come with water bottles, and can easily fit into backpacks for easy travel to and from school.
Happy Toys Inc.
Perfect for school, camping, traveling, or hiking, these Collapsible Water Bottles are made from three layers of ultra-durable plastic. Each bottle stands 10″ when filled and rolls, folds, or flattens when empty. Then just slip into a pocket, purse, or backpack. Or, customers can use the color-coordinated metal carabiner to securely attach to their belt.
This decorative windsock is more than 4 feet long. Featuring a proud Uncle Sam, the bold colors will dance in the wind to show your patriotic spirit. Strong nylon string is sewn into the top rim to help maintain shape, and it can easily be hung with an included hook.
Great for Independence Day, Memorial Day, or all year long to showcase the love for your country, this patriotic auto flag easily mounts to car windows. Made of Nylon, the flag measures 19″ x 11 1/4″ and the sturdy plastic window mount is 17 1/2″ long. Each flag comes packaged in a poly bag with a hang tag.
CKB Products Wholesale
As consumers are getting all of their summer decorations out and creating new gardens, this adorable gnome statue is a perfect accent to any yard or garden. Complete with a leather jacket and matching gnome hat, this statue also has a solar panel that helps the gnome light up at night.
Your customers will be the life of the party with these cool sunglasses. Featuring an American flag on the front of both lenses, others will be able to see the beautiful design but wearers will just see the regular tint to protect their eyes from the sun. These are one size fits most and work great for both men and women.
Uncle Sam is ready to welcome some feathered friends to any yard with this darling birdhouse. Filled with patriotic charm, it features an American flag flying high from the flagpole, along with stars on the roof and a red and white picket fence. Two entrances and heart-shaped decorations will make birds feel right at home in the U.S.A. The birdhouse also comes with a clean-out hole in the back.
Eastwind Wholesale Gift Distributors