Christmas In September is Back-To-School For Retailers

According to Back-to-School Shopping: 2013 Trends from Placed Insights, the back-to-school shopping season is second only to Christmas in retail sales, as retailers across a variety of categories, including apparel, electronics, office supplies, and more, stock their shelves with must have items and flood advertising channels to drive shoppers through their doors.

Data sourced from Placed Insights measurements of over 100 million locations a day across more than 100,000 U.S. panelists, looks at how parents navigate the back-to-school retail landscape, providing analysis into how purchase planning, advertising preferences and smartphone usage influence shopping activities.

Asking when they planned to complete their back-to-school shopping, two-thirds of parents identify as last minute or late back-to-school shoppers:

  • 58% of parents planned to complete their shopping less than one month before the start of school
  • 11% planned to finish shopping after the start of school, which could bode well for retailers looking for an extra bump in sales after the official end of the back-to-school season
  • Early birds accounted for 31% of shoppers, composed mainly of those planning to complete their shopping at least one month before the start of school

Plan To Complete Back-To-School Shopping

When Plan to Shop

% of Respondents

Less than one month before start of school


One month before


After school starts


Two months before the start of school


Source: Placed Insights, July 2013

Looking at which retailers late shoppers were most and least likely to visit in the physical world, parents that planned to finish back-to-school shopping after the start of school were 34% more likely to visit Costco, 22% more likely to visit J.C. Penney, and 21% more likely to visit Kmart than an average consumer, which suggests a possibly longer back to school season for these retailers:

  • Late shoppers were more likely to visit all three major office supply stores, Office Depot, Office Max and Staples, compared to an average consumer.
  • In contrast, parents who planned to finish shopping after school begins were less likely to shop at electronics retailers, including Best Buy and RadioShack, and select department stores, Kohl’s and Target.

Among selected department and superstores, Macy’s (index 162), Kmart (index 143), Target (index 126), and Sears (index 117) saw early bird shoppers significantly more likely to visit than an average consumer.

As back-to-school drives an increase in advertising dollars to reach parents and students alike as they prepare for the new school year, preferences for receiving deals and promotions spanned a variety of digital and traditional marketing channels, demonstrating the importance of a multi-channel approach in order to reach diverse audiences.

Preferences For Receiving Back-To-School Promotions And Deals (% Of Respondents; Multiple Response OK)


% of Respondents

Print ads


Direct mail from store/brand


Email from store/brand


Brand/store website


Deal websites


Social media


Source: Placed Insights, July 2013

The report showed that coupons/discounts ranked as the most popular smartphone activity for 48.9% of parents, while nearly 2 in 5 parents planned to use their smartphone to compare prices while in a store, underscoring the pressure of showrooming for many retailers across a variety of retail categories.

Smartphone Plans for Back-To-School Shopping (% Of Respondents; Multiple Response OK)

Smartphone Use

% of Respondents

Get coupons/discounts


Compare prices while in store


Access a retailer's website/app


Find a store location


Make/reference shopping list


Get product information


Make a purchase


Source: Placed Insights, July 2013

Mobile shoppers were 22% more likely to visit a brick-and-mortar Macy’s than an average consumer, 22% more likely to visit Office Depot and 21% more likely to visit Office Max, 19% more likely to visit Best Buy, concludes the report.

For additional information from Placed Insights, please visit here.

2 comments about "Christmas In September is Back-To-School For Retailers".
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  1. Andrew boon from self, September 3, 2013 at 8:23 a.m.

    Interesting strategies to increase sales. Read this interesting whitepaper on retail "Thinking about tomorrow: Post-recession strategies for retailers" it offers information on technology in retail and other trends that are shaping the retail industry, readers will find it very interesting @

  2. Diane Yeamans from Midco, September 3, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.

    Anyone who thinks September is back-to-school month has missed the sales window by a month. It's AUGUST!

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