How Retailers are Competing for Back-to-School Billions
If you’re a parent whose back-to-school costs have gone up this year, you are not alone. In its annual survey, the National Retail Federation concluded that families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend $848.90, $59 more than last year, on average on back-to-school items. Total back-to-school spending is expected to reach $37.1 billion, up from $33.9 billion last year and an all-time high in the survey’s history.
Electronics, clothing, and school supplies are the main spending areas this time of year. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the brands competing for this huge part of the retail sales pie.
A new school year usually means tech upgrades for many students. Consumer spending on computing devices (PCs, tablets, mobile phones, and printers) is a highly competitive and lucrative industry. Spending on devices is expected to increase 13.9% to reach $794 billion this year, according to market research provider Statista. Looking to cash in on students’ electronics needs, Dell Technologies Inc. (Tii:DELL) is offering discounts on its desktops, laptops and accessories in its back-to-school sales push. Not to be outdone, Apple Inc. (Tii:AAPL), whose June quarter revenues increased 36% to reach a record $81.4 billion, is discounting its MacBook Airs and throwing in free AirPods for returning students.
No student wants to start the new school year without a wardrobe update. With fiscal 2020 net sales of $13.8 billion, The Gap, Inc. (Tii:GPS) is a major apparel provider through its Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta brands. The global retailer recently announced its three-year growth strategy, Power Plan 2023, in which the company will transition away from malls and improve online and in-store consumer experiences. The Gap also looks to grow its Athleta brand into a $2 billion business. Another apparel provider, VF Corp. (Tii:VFC), also produces footwear and controls 55% of the backpack market through its JanSport and EastPak brands. Several of the company’s other brands are popular with students, including The North Face, Timberland, and Vans.
Also on the apparel front is Authentic Brands. While not yet a public company, Authentic Brands filed a registration in July to go public, with expectations to trade under the symbol AUTH. With a portfolio of more than 6,000 stores and 30 brands that include Juicy Couture, Izod, Van Heusen, Aéropostale and Forever 21, Authentic Brands is still expanding its holdings. The company announced on August 12 that it would acquire footwear brand Reebok from adidas AG (Tii:ADDDF) for $2.5 billion.
There is always a host of school supplies needed this time of year – and no shortage of retailers looking to provide them. Like many other large retailers, Target Corp. (Tii:TGT) created a dedicated back-to-school channel on its website to boost sales this quarter and provide consumers with a convenient one-stop-shop experience. New to the channel among the backpacks, lunch bags, and school supplies are “essentials” that include face masks, disinfecting wipes and at-home learning items. Dollar Tree, Inc. (Tii:DLTR) also has a dedicated channel on its website for returning students that collates all school supplies while offering advice to educators looking to boost engagement with their students. The discount variety store operator is in the process of ramping up, having held hiring events at each of its 26 U.S. distribution centers.
This time of year is the last big sales push for many of these companies before the all-important holiday season kicks off. Expect a steady stream of promotions as they compete for the billions spent over the next few weeks.