Kicking Off the 2021 Back-to-School Season
If you know retail, you’re well aware that post-Fourth of July officially marks the beginning of back-to-school season. Even with the start of school still weeks away, advertisements and promotional events are in full swing – and this year’s BTS season is even more influential than ever before.
After a nearly nonexistent back-to-school season in 2020, retailers and brands are making sure to “go big” this time around. Thanks to expanding vaccine distribution, many schools and college campuses will finally be re-opening in-person sessions rather than upholding remote learning; thus, actually giving families a reason to shop for school once again.
Here in the U.S., families will start receiving a monthly child tax credit payment through the American Rescue Plan. If eligible, parents may receive half of their annual tax credit money in the form of monthly payments in an effort to help support families during this transitional time.
Given these circumstances, families are ready to shop and revel in the cherished childhood experience that is the back-to-school season; but, is the retail industry actually ready?
While demand is certainly there, stock, on the other hand, may not be. Plus, quickly growing consumer demand for durable goods, particularly in North America, has pushed up the cost of transporting goods and has caused back-ups at ports.
All that being said, 2021 is still set to be a fruitful BTS season despite a few setbacks. Excitement, purposeful shopping, and government benefits are sure to drive sales and we’re already seeing this reflected as we keep tabs on a few different signature seasonal categories: backpacks, denim, and sneakers.
Backpacks may just be the most iconic item when it comes to back-to-school goods. This year, we’ve already seen a higher percentage of new backpacks introduced in June, at 28%, compared to only 7% in June 2020. In addition to that, backpacks have been introduced earlier this back-to-school season, starting at the end of May, while last year, backpacks saw peak introductions in early August.
Another key category for the back-to-school season is denim, and we’re already seeing a significantly higher sell-out rate than in 2020. Most notably, the denim sell-out rate has had its seasonal peak in June 2021 at 38%; compare this with 2020 when sold-out rates during the same period were only 7%. In fact, in 2020, peak denim sold-out rates happened later, in October.
Lastly, sneakers have been strong performers in retailers’ assortments throughout the pandemic. as comfort was certainly key last year. In 2020, sneakers saw peak introductions in the months of August and December, and this year, peak introductions have taken place in March and June, but supply could become an issue for the category, as the aforementioned port backups as well as the rapid spread of the Delta COVID variant in key sneaker producing countries like Vietnam, may slow down the introduction of sneakers in the coming months. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on the category as the situation evolves..
All in all, the back-to-school season is off to a solid, albeit wobbly, start and should likely prove to be better than last year’s.