Grading Back to School: BTS Shopping Dates & Early Sales Predictions

Each week this summer, FN will offer a roundup of essential news, data and analysis about the important back-to-school (BTS) selling season.

Below are the answers to five burning questions that you’ll want to know now.

1. When is the first day of school?

School starts vary widely across the country, mainly because they are determined at the state and local levels. Southern states tend to have the earliest dates: Parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, will begin the first week of August this year. School districts in the Northeast are typically the latest: Both Boston and New York public schools will begin on Sept. 5.

2. When does BTS kick off?

According to Deloitte’s 2019 “Back-to-School Survey,” around 60% of parents said they plan to start shopping one month to six weeks before school begins, making late July and early August the busiest times. For stores, though, they view Amazon Prime Day (this year on July 15-16) as the first big sales moment. In a report from RetailMeNot, 84% of retailers say Prime week is the most important time for driving online sales during the entire back-to-school shopping season.

3. What are the hottest shoes?

Kicks are still in for the upcoming school season, according to The NPD Group Inc.’s 2019 report on b-t-s. The company is predicting sport leisure footwear (which is up 6% year-to-date) will continue its reign. So far this year, the sport leisure category accounts for 60 percent of kids’ footwear sales.

4. Is online more important than brick-and-mortar?

To get their messages out to parents, retailers said they are 63% more likely to prioritize marketing to online shoppers than in-store shoppers, according to RetailMeNot’s study. But those companies may be missing the mark. Deloitte reports that the majority of b-t-s purchases (56%) will take place in brick-and-mortar stores — on par with last year. Online shopping will make up 29% of sales, up from 23% last year.

5. What do parents need from retailers?

Kohl’s recently polled more than 1,500 parents to get their thoughts on the BTS season, and found that 61% would appreciate having a shopping checklist to help them out. The retailer responded by curating a special page on its website with access to everything parents might need, from backpacks and school uniforms to popular shoe styles from Nike, Crocs and Vans.

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