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BRG Study: Retailers Have Unique Opportunity to Impress Shoppers This Back-to-School Season

August 26, 2021

BRG has released its 2021 back-to-school (BTS) white paper, which finds that the recent rise in COVID cases could change how consumers spend during this critical selling period. With many offices not opening until after Labor Day, the BTS and back-to-office (BTO) season will look different this year—again.

“Though we all were looking forward to a return to normalcy this year, that has yet to happen, and we’ve found that consumers and retailers alike still are navigating challenges brought on by the pandemic,” said Keith Jelinek, a managing director at BRG. “To mitigate financial harm, retailers should be prepared with a stocked, varied inventory of key products that customers will no doubt be looking to buy, including sanitizing products and typical school supplies like backpacks and crayons. They’ll also want to make the in-store experience as safe and efficient as they can.”

According to MasterCard, BTS consumer spending could increase by 5.5% over 2020. BRG Retail expects consumers to be mission focused whether they shop in store or online. Apparel likely will be a significant focus for shoppers looking to refresh two-year-old outgrown wardrobes, driving sales in tops, bottoms, accessories and footwear.

As retailers face ongoing challenges to their inventories and supply chains, BRG Retail offers key strategies for driving success, including:

  • Excite customers with excellent customer service, a safe environment and a fun in-store experience by presenting wide-ranging options for shoppers who want to browse and/or shop online.
  • Make it easy to find key fast-moving items that are required supplies for local schools.
  • Leverage ecommerce capabilities and visibility to another store location’s inventory, and offer free shipping to get the customer the item(s) they want.
  • Make sure advertising, digital campaigns and the retailer website call out exciting BTS promotions to drive customers to your store.

Broadly, retailers must be flexible and prepared to adjust to changing expectations for in-store safety measures and inventory shortages. Mass retailers and department stores especially should be prepared to meet the demand as shoppers look to replenish supplies at a good value.

“Here’s the bottom line: retailers have an incredible opportunity to win trust with consumers this BTO and BTS season, but it’s going to require an omnichannel approach and an ability to be flexible—more so than ever before,” added Rick Maicki, a managing director at BRG.

Successful and timely preparation for the BTO and BTS season will set retailers up for success for the next important selling period: the holiday season. BRG Retail will be releasing a larger consumer survey on that in the weeks to come.

Access the full research report, Back-to-School 2021 – A Unique Opportunity to Impress Shoppers.

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Related Professionals

Keith Jelinek

Managing Director

Los Angeles, Century City

Richard Maicki

Managing Director

New York