by
Mike Grillo
July 21, 2022

Return to (Almost) Normal: Back to School Shopping Trends for 2022

Back to School Season is here and even with inflation causing an increase in prices, customers are still poised to spend. Here are three trends to watch out for this year and how they will impact your business this BTS selling season.

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What to Expect

Back-to-school (BTS) seasonal campaigns can be a meaningful sales driver for brands in certain categories and help accelerate revenue coming out of slower summer months. With that said, BTS has looked very different over the last several years with the pandemic raging and schools and colleges/universities reluctant to return to in-person learning. This year will mark a return to normal on the education side of things while remaining somewhat a-typical given the macro-economic environment. 

Whether you’ve already launched your back-to-school programming or are slated to do so in the coming weeks, we’ve laid out a few trends to keep your eyes on to get the most out of this important selling season. 

Timing 

As we’ve seen with many of the major sales holidays since the pandemic, when and how long the majority of shopping happens has shifted/become less predictable, and BTS is no exception. According to data from Deloitte, though, 2022 may bring a return to more traditional timing, with peak shopping occurring between the last week in July and the first week of August. This is a marked change from 2021 when demand was pulled forward as early as July 10th.

What does this mean for my business? 

Timing is everything during a sale, so you may want to launch your promotions a bit later than last year and sustain a steady cadence of reminders and last-chance messaging throughout the second and third week in August. Keep in mind that while some schools don’t start their semesters until September, the majority of BTS shopping is complete by the last week of August. 

Discounting

As with all retail holidays, your consumers will expect a discount this back-to-school season. Discounting this year is going to be tricky, though, as increased cost of goods and promotional expectations can put quite a strain on your gross margin. Across the Ampla portfolio of close to 400 brands, the median increase in COGS YoY was 21% from July ‘21 to July ‘22, while the median percentage discount offered during the ‘21 BTS season was 20%1. It can be challenging for brands to support these promotional activities while balancing the increase in COGS. 

1 Ampla internal intelligence reporting

What does this mean for my business? 

Be more conscious of your unit economics than ever before. This goes without saying, but warrants repeating: run analyses across all of your products to show what your gross margin is at varying levels of discounting. Perhaps this year, 15% is all that you can afford to offer customers while maintaining healthy margins. Maybe 15% is even too much, and you should consider another promotional strategy such as a low cost “gift with purchase” or “buy one get one at X% off.”

In-Store vs. Online

As has been the trend for the last year, consumers are returning to in-person shopping, putting omnichannel brands at a strong advantage versus their pure-play eCommerce counterparts. According to Deloitte, eComm’s share of the back-to-school spending of K-12 parents is slated to decrease to 35% in 2022 from 39% in 2021, while parents surveyed indicated that 49% will shop in-store (up from 43% last year).

What does this mean for my business? 

Whether your customers prefer to shop in-store or online, the most important thing you can do this BTS season is to maintain consistency across channels. Consumers are still omnichannel shoppers and expect a consistent assortment and promotional strategy regardless of where they are. This means that unless you have a promotional exclusive with a retailer, your discounting strategy should be the same on your website as it is with your retail partners and on Amazon. The customer journey is not necessarily linear, and often, a customer goes to their local department store or big box retailer to touch and feel your product before buying it on your website. If they saw a 25% discount in stores, and there’s only 15% offered online, you’re creating customer confusion and are likely to lose the sale.

Key Takeaways

Despite broader concerns about the economy, surveys show that shoppers are still eager to spend this season. According to experts, parents are expected to spend an average of $661 per child on school supplies and apparel this year vs $612 in 2021. To capitalize on this demand, there are three trends/tips you may want to keep in mind this season. 

  1. While 2021 saw demand pulled forward to late June and early July, experts predict peak shopping will occur between the last week of July into early August. Be sure to time your sales and promotions accordingly. 
  2. Balancing the increase in COGS and promotional activities to achieve healthy gross margins is key for a successful season. 
  3. Keep a consistent assortment and promotional strategy across all channels to avoid consumer confusion. 

If you need a financial partner to help you prep or optimize for the 2022 BTS season, contact Ampla today. 

Mike Grillo
Mike Grillo
VP, Marketing

Michael (Mike) Grillo is an advertising and marketing industry veteran who currently serves as VP of Marketing at Ampla. Prior to Ampla, Mike was the Head of Consumer Products and Retail at Calm, the #1 App for Meditation and Sleep and co-founder and CEO of Gravity Products, home to the world-famous Gravity Blanket. Under Mike's leadership, Gravity was named one of Time Magazine's Best Inventions (2018) and Entrepreneur Magazine's 100 Brilliant Companies. The brand was ultimately acquired by WIN Brands Group in 2021. Mike is an angel investor and advisor to several NYC-based start-ups, including Ampla Technologies.