Merchants Get Creative for Back-to-School

Aug 08, 2013 4:45 PM  By

Merchants are in the midst of the back-to-school rush and are finding various ways to promote this busy time of the year.

Kathy Grannis, Sr. director of media relations for the National Retail Federation, said merchants are expected to be creative in their promotions and targeting the right people as with any spending season.

“It is very focused on attracting teens and tweens in addition to Mom and Dad,” said Grannis.

The NRF says families are expected to spend an average of $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics.  This is down from last year which saw a total of $688.68.  Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach a total of $26.7 billion.

She said campaigns are made to resonate with both students and parents.  She said merchants have done a great job offering creative experiences during back-to-school.

For example, Office Depot developed a program that allows for an interactive back-to-school shopping experience, according to Ellis Mass, vice president of marketing for Office Depot.  The office supplies merchant partnered with boy band One Direction with its 1D+OD campaign to promote anti-bullying efforts in schools across America.

The campaign is being promoted through multiple social media channels with exclusive One Direction products, according to the Office Depot website.back_to_school_chalk_board_300

J.C. Penney has become one of the top online shopping destinations for back-to-school sales.  Just behind Walmart, J.C. Penney was ranked number two online retail for back-to-school.

Home appliance and consumer electronic retailer H.H. Gregg is promoting back-to-school through direct mail, email, social and other digital channels, according to an email from the merchant.  Tablets continue to be the key selling item for H.H. Gregg for back-to-school.

Macy’s is getting social for back-to-school with savings on brands to experimental activations and new social programs, according to a press release.   The merchant is planning Facebook and twitter sweepstakes, family-oriented activities and charitable partnership with Reading Is Fundamental.

Macy’s is hosting the “First Day of School Photo Sweepstakes”, where it is asking shoppers to take pictures of students on the first day of school to enter a chance to win a $500 Macy’s gift card for sharing the photos.  From Aug. 13 through Sept. 11 shoppers can visit Macy’s Facebook page and upload the photo of their student aged 5 to 10 on the first day of school.

Target’s Cartwheel program which launched in May on Facebook has an exclusive back-to-school collection on its mobile application and the Target website with various coupons and offers.

Merchants are continuing to look for ways to integrate the web into their physical store.  It is important merchants continue to be creative with product offerings and promotions because it is a competitive  time of the year.

Kohl’s is enhancing the back-to-school season by awarding prizes to customers with its “Win Great Things Back-to-School Sweepstakes”  The sweepstakes runs from Aug. 4 through Sept. 2 online and in-store, according to a press release.

Customers who shop at Kohl’s, will receive one game piece for every $30 spent for a chance to win a variety of prizes including JanSport backpacks, iTunes, gift cards and other items.

Staples opened back-to-school with its new Reward-A-Classroom program. According to a press release on Staples.com, in addition to receiving 5% in Staples Rewards all members earn,  parents can now earn extra rewards for a teacher of their choice when they link their Rewards account.

When parents participate, teachers get 5% back in Rewards on every copy and print purchase,  2% back in rewards on everything else.  Educators additionally for their own purchases earn 5% back in rewards on everything including technology and services, plus an additional 5% back in Rewards on teaching and art supplies through the Teachers Rewards program.