Back to School 2014: 3 Major Retail Trends - ShopperTrak

Back to School 2014: 3 Major Retail Trends

by Kevin Kearns on 9-26-14 in Industry Trends

Now that school is back in session and “Back to School” promotions have ended, Shoppertrak has analyzed seasonal trends and developed insights to help retailers interpret and leverage their data to drive results. Here are 3 major retail trends we followed this year:

Back to School Shoppers are Starting Earlier

The Trend

According to data from our sample of participating retailers, store visits in the first half of August have shifted from predominately late in the month to much earlier since 2012, with 51.1% of visits occurring during the first two weeks of August in 2014, as opposed to 49.4% in 2012. With overall traffic volume relatively flat, this shift in shopping behavior is especially significant.

What it Means for Retailers

Retailers should be prepared, from both marketing and staffing standpoints, for shoppers to begin earlier in the season. Marketers need to have campaigns and additional staffers trained earlier in anticipation of a continued shift in shopping behavior. Additionally, as discussed in our post on Back to School differences by region, retailers should also pay close attention school start dates, as buying patterns are heavily driven by the date of the first day of school.

Average Transaction Size Increasing Year-over-Year

The Trend

The average transaction size (ATS), measured in US dollars, has increased by more than 4% (adjusted for inflation) every year since 2012, meaning that Back to School shoppers are buying more with each purchase. With total sales increasing and visits to the stores remaining flat or decreasing slightly, shoppers are making the most of every visit and returning less for subsequent visits. ATS also increases later in the month; so, while there are fewer visitors shopping toward the end of August than in past years, those who do come into the store are more likely to buy more than early shoppers. Dials show total growth rate, 2012 to 2014. $/Shopper = average dollar spent per store visitor

What it Means for Retailers

Savvy retailers know that ATS is a key component in increasing store profitability, as it is very reflective of general store layout and promotional effectiveness. As a general trend, shoppers are doing more research online before entering a store, increasing the likelihood of large purchases and also explaining the shift toward fewer repeat visits later in the month. A good retail strategy might include grouping items to increase cross-selling and offering bulk discounts to further catalyze ATS and get the most value out of each shopper visit. Promotions are likely going to be more effective early in the month, as end-of-month shoppers, though less frequent, are running out of time and likely less price-elastic.

Sales Are Up!

The Trend

Sales have increased across the select set of merchants evaluated for this analysis each year since 2012, by 5% and 2.5% (non-inflation adjusted) from 2012 to 2013 and 2013 to 2014, respectively. While other measures including average transaction size, store visits, etc. are very useful operational metrics, an increase in top-line sales is a definitively positive signal for retailers. The increases seen by these select merchants are very reflective of trends seen in US Census GAFO numbers, reinforcing the trend that Back to School spending is on the rise.

What it Means for Retailers

Retailers should be excited about increasing “Back to School” sales because, while representing only a small portion of total annual sales, this trend could be indicative of increases in annual holiday sales over the coming months. Any savvy retailer should be aware of trends affecting his or her store, leveraging the operational metrics discussed above to make good decisions. Retailers should continue to pay close attention to overall sales growth as a reflection of macro-economic conditions, as well as successful usage of data-driven strategies. Retailers interested in finding out more how ShopperTrak helps retailers collect and utilize store data to drive industry best-practices should schedule a demo to find out more about our solution.

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Read more posts by Kevin Kearns

Kevin Kearns is the Chief Revenue Officer at ShopperTrak, where he oversees the professional services and marketing department, as well as the global sales and sales operations teams. He previously served as the Chief Sales Officer, where he was responsible for leading global sales and customer service operating in over 90 countries.

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