How small businesses can gear up for the back-to-school rush

How small businesses can gear up for the back-to-school rush


After a summer of fun and adventure, kids across the country are preparing to head back to school as stores stock up on all the back-to-school materials, gear and clothing necessary to make the transition to a new grade. For retailers and other small businesses with products or services that cater to the back-to-school crowd, this time of the year can be quite lucrative. QuickBooks reported that by 2020, 80 million Americans, or 24 percent of the country’s population, will be under the age of 18. This will equate to big bucks for companies selling school supplies, clothing, electronics and more.

Back-to-school shopping has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, with spending for school supplies and electronics surging 42 percent in the past 10 years, the National Retail Federation reported. Although families are beginning their back-to-school shopping earlier in the year now, they are also extending this period later into the season as well. The NRF’s annual Back-to-School and Back-to-College report noted that only half of the families surveyed had this shopping completed by early August, with a mere 13 percent of respondents having purchased from their school-approved lists. Further, nearly 22 percent – the greatest percentage of those surveyed – had yet to begin this crucial component of every new school year as of early August.

What are families buying?
The NRF survey revealed that school supplies were the largest need, with 77 percent of respondents saying they needed to buy these products. Following that, 70 percent said new clothing was their priority, while 57 percent stated that shoes were at the top of their shopping list. School requirements for supply purchases will influence 64 percent of parents, while 45 percent said these stipulations will determine which electronics they buy.

Provide ways to save
The biggest determinant for parents choosing where to do their back-to-school shopping was saving money. Last year 43 percent of parents were influenced by coupons according to the NRF’s survey, but this number jumped to 48 percent for 2016. Further, 39 percent of respondents plan on using in-store promotions. Meanwhile, advertising inserts will attract 33 percent of those surveyed. By offering discounts, coupons, sales, promotions and other competitive pricing options, small businesses can potentially boost their sales on back-to-school items while shoppers also stock up on other items in the shop.

Bundle products
Parents and students are already stressed with all the responsibilities necessary for preparing with the back-to-school rush, so any way owners can help ease their burden can really help. Consider placing all the back-to-school-related goods and products close together in the store or even bundling together the most commonly purchased items. Whether it’s a full outfit of clothes, a study pack with pens and notebooks or a flash drive with an electronic purchase, these can help ease customers through the purchasing process. In addition, low-cost or even free shipping can attract additional customers who might be worried about their expenses.

Beyond retail
Clothing shops, retail stores and electronics outlets aren’t the only businesses that can capitalize on the back-to-school crowd. With all the shopping that goes into this season, many parents are reluctant to go home and start cooking dinner after being on their feet all day or evening. Restaurants can offer specials for families out shopping for school supplies or automotive repair shops can highlight the need for a checkup before all the back-and-forth chauffeuring parents undertake during the school year. By tangentially associating the product or service with the back-to-school season, even the most niche businesses can capitalize on this time of year.

Don’t forget about college students
While the majority of individuals going back to school are generally kids attending a K-12 institution, there are plenty of college students heading to campus. Individuals working at the collegiate level have a different set of needs than the typical K-12 student. From moving into a dorm room or an apartment, to a much higher need for a laptop or personal computer, small business owners should ensure they don’t neglect this sizeable component of the back-to-school crowd.

Small business owners can take advantage of quick and easy access to alternative lending solutions for all of their back-to-school preparation needs.