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Back-to-School Promotions That Stretch Past August

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The first 2017 back-to-school shopping forecast is out, and eMarketer is predicting a 4% increase in spending over last year. U.S. retail sales are expected to reach $857.18 billion during July and August in back-to-school sales. Ecommerce is expected to grow 14.8% to $74.03 billion during this time, with consumers snapping up products in these five categories:

  • Apparel and accessories
  • Books, music, and video
  • Computers and consumer electronics
  • Office equipment and supplies
  • Toys and hobbies, including sporting goods

Some marketers are urging retailers not to limit their promotions to traditional back-to-school consumers. For instance, retailers need to think beyond the traditional student and include adult students, who may have families, and therefore different purchasing needs than younger students who live in dorms.

While most students attend college immediately after graduating high school, some take a gap year. Others return to school for a career change, while some are single parents with a different set of responsibilities than your average high-school-graduate, says James Green, CEO of marketing firm Magnetic. “Making sure you know enough [about each group] to appeal to these different types of people, which is entirely possible with data driven marketing today, is crucial to being relevant,” he says.

And don’t forget about teachers. Each year, 3.6 million grade school teachers go back-to-school, according to the National Center for Statistics. Many will spend $3.9 billion of their own money on school supplies for themselves and their students, Green says. With the federal government proposing deep budget cuts to education, according to the Washington Post, teachers may spend even more of their own money to stock classrooms in the future.

Marketers also shouldn’t limit their back-to-school promotions to just July and August, Green says. “It’s true that the biggest buying moment for students is the traditional back-to-school period, but students are in fact buying different materials all year long,” Green says. “One of humanity’s better traits is loyalty, and if you build a good relationship with consumers during the year when it comes time to buy big they are more likely to buy with you rather than your competitor because they have had a good experience with you and are loyal.”

Year-Round College Marketing Opportunities 

Green put together a calendar that suggests year-round, back-to-school promotions for beyond July and August. These are his suggestions for capitalizing on back-to-school promotions throughout the year.

September 

Focus on empty nesters itching to redecorate their child’s bedroom now that the last kid has left for college.

October

Offer deals on clothes and accessories for back-to-school photos.

November

Encourage parents and students to consider holiday gifts for their favorite teachers.

December

Not everyone graduates in June. Remind families to congratulate December graduates.

January

As a new semester begins, students and teachers need to replenish their school supplies.

February

Families and college students start thinking about a spring break trip.

March

Spring break! Parents and college students will spend money on new clothes, accessories and supplies for their trip.

April

Get ready for finals. Nearly 80% of college students use a subscription-based digital study tool to prep for exams, according to a survey by McGraw-Hill Education.

May

Prom season begins. Families spend more than $900 on prom, according to an article in The Guardian.

June

Graduation time. Families spent $4.8 billion in graduation gifts, according to the National Retail Federation.

The key, says Green, is figuring out the timing and who to market to for those milestone events related to school.

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