How to Keep Your Stores at the Top of the Class This Back-to-School Season

15 August 2019

Operations | Retail news & trends | In-store conversion optimization

The new school year is almost upon us, and you know what that means - it's time to start shopping for school supplies.

It may not be quite as big a deal as Black Friday, but the start of the new school year is still very lucrative for retailers. NRF predicts 2019’s spending to total $80.7 billion.

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Of course, there are the essentials, like pens and notebooks, which Deloitte states will be purchased by 98% of back-to-school shoppers. Then there are electronics, an increasingly prominent feature of this season, which accounts for an average spend of $305.

By far the largest category for back to school spending, however, is clothing and accessories, forming a massive 54% of total spending. We all remember how that first day of school outfit could make or break your entire year - what you wear is way more important to kids than having enough pens, and parents know it.

With consumers planning to spend 56% of their budget in-store, the back-to-school rush is a huge opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers. Here’s how to ensure that every store is a class act this back-to-school season.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

You must have heard your teachers say it a hundred times, and it’s true. A lack of forward planning before a big event spells disaster for retailers.

Busy parents don’t have a lot of patience. For the most part, they want to get into the store, buy what they need with as little fuss as possible, and go home. If a store is messy and chaotic, they’re going to walk straight out and head next door to your competitor.

Every single store needs to up their game. The store should be clean and easy to navigate, low stock should be immediately replenished, and all promotional material should be present and correct.

That last one is especially important: 69% of customers consider sales and discounts to be the deciding factor in purchasing decisions when shopping for the new school year, and almost 60% claim to exclusively buy discounted back-to-school items.

For store teams, that means paying close attention to detail, particularly when it comes to promotions. For area managers, that means playing the role of teacher - that is, not just checking that the work has been done, but providing stores with the support and guidance they need to achieve their goals. See what we did there?

Sales associates should be doing their homework

So you’ve got all your promotional material ready, the shelves are fully stocked and you’re ready for a store full of exhausted parents who are way more excited for the first day of school than their kids are.

But are your store teams as thoroughly prepared as the store itself?

Sales associates are bound to be feeling the pressure of increased store traffic and a barrage of questions from shoppers, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Make sure that your store teams are thoroughly prepped by boosting their knowledge with targeted microlearning.

Regularly completing short quizzes on promotions and product information in the run-up to back-to-school season will ensure that they’re ready for anything when the time comes.

Go the extra mile to beat the competition

Shoppers are spoilt for choice at this time of year - every store they pass by will inevitably have a back-to-school window display and signs declaring their unbeatable prices. So to stand out, stores should be offering impeccable customer service.

Talking to a friendly, well-informed sales associate is a big help to the customer, and often results in an increase in basket size and future customer loyalty.

Going the extra mile with customer service can take many forms. Maybe it’s providing carefully thought-out product bundles to make things easier for busy parents, or offering a delivery service for any out-of-stock items. It could even something as simple as taking the time to help out a bemused mom who has no idea which clothes will get her kid to the top of the social pyramid.

These are the extra elements that are lost in online shopping, and when done well, they can provide a major boost in sales.


Want all of your stores to get an A+ this back-to-school season? YOOBIC’s in-store conversion optimization platform helps store networks perform their best through operational excellence, collaborative learning and streamlined team communication.