Back-to-School Trends for 2017

John Krautzel
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Retail trends show back-to-school spending increasing in 2017, with the National Retail Federation's annual survey predicting a 10 percent increase in sales over 2016. This could make 2017 the biggest back-to-school season for retailers since 2012. Although classic school supplies, such crayons, glue sticks, clothing and footwear, are always in demand, retailers need to stay on top of current back-to-school shopping trends to stay competitive during the 2017 back-to-school season.

Back to College

In 2017, college enrollment is up, and a higher percentage of students are living on campus. The NRF predicts that this will lead to record highs in back-to-college spending. This retail trend extends back-to-school shopping into areas beyond the traditional categories of apparel and school supplies. Look for more marketing of furniture, house goods and food during back-to-school time.

Technology for Tweens

Younger students are purchasing more technology in 2017 than in previous years. Watch for laptops and tablets being marketed to the middle school set. High school students are now considering technology accessories as essential school supplies, right up there with new backpacks and notebooks. Look for accessories, such as headphones, tablet keyboards, laptop skins and cellphone cases, to be marketed prominently next to traditional school supplies.

Online Research

Although back-to-school purchases are expected to remain within the traditional period, retail trends show research and shopping for those purchases beginning earlier and earlier. Expect more consumers to shop online this year, even if the final purchase is made at a brick-and-mortar store. Both parents and students are browsing retailer websites and reading reviews before making purchasing decisions. Retailers need to make sure that their online presence is up to date and that they are actively involved through social media to pull in customers before they even get to a store.

Transfer of Buying Power

Kids have more money than they used to, and they are making more independent decisions about their back-to-school spending. In response to this retail trend, retailers are directing more advertising towards youth. Look for more online advertising incorporating pop culture and the latest teen trends. In 2017, superheroes are a big draw for both teens and the younger crowd. Younger shoppers are less likely to look at the price tag and more likely to move towards exciting products that appeal to their sense of style, further changing the direction of successful advertising campaigns.

More Convenience Options

Like their parents, teens and tweens care about convenience, and retailers need to prioritize convenience to pull in shoppers. Online retailers offer the ultimate in convenience — comfortable shopping from your own home and delivery right to your door. Mass merchandisers are competing by offering their own conveniences including easy access to school-supply lists and free ship-to-store delivery for online purchases. Smaller shops are taking a different direction, embracing retail trends toward offering more rewarding shopping experiences and more unique products. Watch for stores offering fun events that pull in the whole family.

A successful back-to-school season is critically important to the health of many businesses. With sales up in 2017, retailers need to work hard to ensure they bring in their share of those sales. Keeping an eye on the latest retail trends can help both brick-and-mortar and online stores do better business as they adapt to changing shopping styles.

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