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BizReport : Ecommerce : July 19, 2021

Back to School a key time for merchants, brands

With the world opening back up after a global pandemic retailers and brands are looking for a return to their normal of crowded stores and merchandise flying off shelves. According to data out from the National Retail Federation sales are expected to increase for 2021 - though perhaps not as high as some merchants would like.

by Kristina Knight

Researchers with the NRF believe retail sales will increase about 10% YoY this year, growing to at least $4 trillion. That is nearly double what researchers believed would happen in February of this year, as qualms about vaccine roll-outs, continued store closures, and pandemic fears escalated. However, as countries, states, and local municipalities have reopened, consumers have responded.

"We are seeing clear signs of a strong and resilient economy," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. "Incoming data suggests that U.S. economic activity continues to expand rapidly, and we have seen impressive growth. Most indicators point toward an energetic expansion over the upcoming months and through the remainder of the year."

The back to school season will likely be one of the first tests for stores, as families prepare for in-building learning and all of the supplies that that entails. According to Deloitte the 2021 Back to School spend is expected to surpass the $32 billion mark (K-12 families) and hit at least $26 billion for families with college-aged children.

Nearly half (40%) of K-12 families say they will spend more during the 2021 back to school season that they did in 2020, with many choosing online options or BOPICS (34%) to skip those in-store lines.

Not only will shoppers be online more than in the past, they'll also be spending earlier. About $9 billion is expected to be spent on back to school before the end of July, with sales steadily dropping through August and spending for the season completed by September. Tech is driving spending this year, with parents investing not only in laptops and tablets but online tools, which many found useful during at-home schooling in 2020.

Still, about half (48%) of shoppers say they'll spend most of their back to school budget at mass merchants, and about one-third (37%) say they'll invest more in tech purchases this year than in year's past.

Tags: back to school advertising, back to school shopping, back to school spending, Deloitte, ecommerce, National Retail Federation

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