Trend report: 2013 Back-to-school season

Retail People Counting Can Help Stores Prepare for Sale-Seeking Shoppers

This August, parents are doing just as much back-to-school shopping as they did last year – but they’re spending less and shopping smarter.

But that doesn’t mean that retailers won’t be making as many transactions as in 2012. Studies show that parents aren’t shopping less, but simply shopping smarter. The NRF reported that 37 percent of parents said they plan to browse before buying this year.

Back-to-school is the second biggest shopping occasion of the year next to the holiday season, with more average spending than Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day combined, according to National Retail Federation consumer trend data. Similar to the holiday season, back-to-school shoppers usually make several trips throughout the season – spending mass amounts of money each time.

In 2010 and 2011, American parents were concerned with saving money because of the bad state of the economy. They were more inclined to shop sales and save old supplies. As the economy improved, some shoppers became comfortable spending money again. In 2012, the NRA reported that parents spent an average of $688.62 – a record high since the recession. But that might have been more than some families bargained for, as parents are expected to cut back to $634.78 this year.

“The good news is that consumers are spending, but they are doing so with cost and practicality in mind,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay explained in a news release.

As Shay alluded, the weight of the recession is slowly lifting from families. According to a BIGinsight study, 77 percent of American families with school-aged children said the state of the state of the economy will impact their back-to-school spending in 2013 – a slight decrease from the 80 percent who said so in 2012.

The retail world is already getting their start in accommodating this season’s smart shoppers. Last week, Staples began its back-to-school promotions, including some school supplies on sale for a penny. Even the government is adding incentives for consumers. At least 17 states are offering sales tax breaks for back-to-school shoppers.

Retail people counting software is one way for back-to-school shopping destinations can make the most out of this money-making season. Here’s how it can help:

  • Compare: Compare your store’s numbers with those of others in your chain using a retail people counting system. The data obtained can answer questions like: How are they performing during the busy back-to-school season? How much traffic are they receiving and how are they accommodating it? Are we performing as well as they are? By asking these questions and analyzing these numbers – namely the overlap of peak traffic hours and peak transaction hours – managers can determine what their store might be missing or doing wrong. For a more in-depth analysis, compare your store’s numbers to the national or regional census boundaries and metropolitan statistical area markets.
  • Prepare: Use information about your store’s peak traffic hours and peak transaction hours to make staffing adjustments and, therefore, meet customer needs. Because shoppers are shopping smarter this year, they’re going to be looking for the best quality at the best price. With an adequate shopper-to-associate ratio, associates can offer their expertise to parents looking for the best product. Also, the more associates working at each station, the less time parents have to spend in the store. Quick and helpful service makes for a satisfying experience, especially for parents who are on their third or fourth shopping trip of the season.
  • Since shoppers are likely to go straight for the sale rack, retail stores should make sure their sales are spend-worthy. For example, 10 percent-off sales aren’t too enticing, whereas buy-one-get-one sales are almost always guaranteed to do well. Retail people counting software can help stores to determine which sales and promotions work best with customers.