Dorm Decor That Makes The Grade

It may be the middle of summer, but kids and families are already thinking about back-to-school as brands and retailers bombard them with deals and sales. For 17- and 18-year-olds, back-to-school = off-to-college and their first foray into freedom from their helicopter parents. And their parents want to ensure their children are well set-up to succeed in college, and that means supplying them with everything from traditional school supplies to cool tech devices to a fun and functional dorm room. 

Deloitte found that 43% of parents expected to spend more on back-to-college for their children in 2013 than in the prior year, with parents’ average spending reaching $907 and college-bound students’ own spending climbing to $453. It’s no wonder that retailers see a significant opportunity in targeting this extension of the traditional back-to-school market.



The lack of fashion-forward dorm décor has been a sticking point for many college freshmen – it takes more than a few posters and a bean bag to make a dorm room feel like home. Enter Dormify, launched by a savvy college freshman and her mom, to fill the void. The company offers everything from complete, customizable décor packages to removable wallpaper, and its collections feature well-known designers, such as Trina Turk and Jonathan Adler. Dormify even has a staff of style advisors on hand to help college-bound teens design their perfect dorm room. 

Affording the move to college got a little easier for parents and students when Target launched its College Checklist registry. Target has long-since been a popular back-to-college shopping destination, known for trendy, stylish, inexpensive items. The new service, launched just in time for the 2014 graduation season, allows college-bound students to register for everything they need to go away to school – from furniture to fashion and from laundry supplies to laptops. 

For families and teens who are more concerned about low prices than high style, Dorm-In-A-Box offers a full line of private-label goods that it also sells in customizable bundles. One click and you’re ready for college! Bundles range from bed & bath to desk accessories to even kitchen supplies, making it quick and cost effective to get everything a future college student may need. Teens can then supplement their bundles with a few personal items to give their college environment a bit more panache.

Another retailer known for one-stop-shopping, Walmart, has also joined the trend, adding a “Back-to-College” tab to the back-to-school section of its website. The section primarily promotes the retailer’s offerings for dorm décor and electronics. Walmart also cleverly promotes personal care products and clothing, suggesting teens’ “new scene” could use a new hygiene routine and some fresh fashions.

For teens, going to college is as much about academics as it is about being able to express their personal style in their first “home” away from home. Getting everything they want and need to decorate their new space shouldn’t be as stressful as scoring well on their SATs. Smart marketers and brands are helping teens (and their parents) find stylish items that reflect who they are, offer customizable solutions, and deliver it all in a convenient one-stop shopping experience.

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