By Jay Keller
Back-to-school sales at retail stores, which generated an estimated $84 billion in sales last year, started a month or so later in the last few years.
This year, however, retailers started rolling out special websites, ad campaigns and word-of-mouth buzz as early as June 10 in an effort to kick off back-to-school sales right after the July 4th holiday.
For most parents and kids, summer vacation just started roughly four weeks ago.
ShopperTrak, a company that counts and analyzes retail foot traffic, on Tuesday said that retailers can expect prepared parents to shop and spend more when shopping for back-to-school items this year than last.
But, major retailers have had their ears to the ground for a while and, in a way, already knew this to be true.
Industry analysts and insiders have watched retail sales and foot traffic show a positive trend over the past few years and all signs have pointed to an expected increase this year.
As such, many have also predicted that competition in the marketplace will get tougher as well.
“Back-to-school shopping is the first major shopping season of the calendar year and has the potential to set the tone for the holidays,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in statement on Tuesday.
Martin added that the predicted increases in August will reflect the economy’s slow and steady gains and that the industry is banking on the fact that the 2013 season will continue the “growth trend of both retail sales and foot traffic.”
Retailers selling products ranging from electronics to school supplies to clothing moved early to answer the calls of customers who want to get out there early to spread out spending.
Walmart launched a special back-to-school website on June 1 complete with 45-percent discounts and free shipping.
Rivals Office Depot and Staples were already advertising special promotions in mid June while kids clothing retailers were stocking items that fit both summer and fall themes like backpacks for camps and the first day of school.
The NPD Group, Inc., a company that provides data based on online consumer panel surveys, also said Wednesday that shoppers will spend more this year, especially online, but this year’s back-to-school influencer might just be the student instead of the parent.
Apparel and footwear were the top retail categories for 2013, according to the survey results, followed by calculators, school bags, sports equipment and school supplies. School supplies were very low on the list.
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analysts for NPD Group, pointed out on Wednesday that how spending on retail categories lines up shows signs that consumers plan to spend more on things they want instead of what they need.
“Parents are loosening up on the tight budgets and letting their kids once again make the decisions,” Cohen said.