Last year’s Back-to-School season coincided with the wider post-vaccination brick-and-mortar reopening and the timing drove exceptionally high foot traffic as consumers flocked to their favorite stores to spend their savings from the previous year. This year, the retail landscape looks quite different, with shoppers looking to stretch their budgets and avoid unnecessary expenses in the face of rising inflation.
Still, students need books, school supplies, and dorm decor and kids need new clothes as they grow. We dove into the data to find out which brands are particularly well positioned to benefit from this year’s Back-to-School season.
Walmart & Target
Walmart and Target are typically big winners of the Back-to-School shopping season as parents and students stock up on everything from apparel to backpacks to lunchbox essentials. And while rising inflation and the downturn in consumer spending seems to have finally reached these retail giants in June 2022, Walmart and Target are still the dominant players in the one-stop-shop value-priced superstore space.
So while these brands’ performances in 2022 may not reach the foot traffic heights of last year’s Back-to-School season, Walmart and Target are both well-positioned to benefit from consumers looking to stock up on essentials without breaking the bank. In addition, the one-stop-shop advantage they provide could be an especially strong draw.
Dollar General & Five Below
Dollar and discount stores are also positioned to thrive this Back-to-School season. As consumers look for ways to stretch their budgets, visits to discount and dollar stores are rising even when compared to the category’s overall impressive foot traffic numbers of 2021. June 2022 visits to Dollar General and Five Below were up 7.5% and 4.7% relative to June 2021.
And since these brands carry everything from school supplies to clothes to sporting equipment and snacks, they can help consumers cut down on driving time and consolidate shopping trips – an enticing prospect given the still-high gas prices. Alignment with both wider trading down trends and mission-driven shopping should add even more fuel to the surge this segment has experienced in recent months.
Goodwill may be one of the surprise winners of Back to School 2022. The brand has been seeing elevated monthly visits all year when compared to both 2019 and 2021, which comes as no surprise given the current economic climate. The brand sells everything from furniture to apparel, and may be particularly attractive to parents looking to buy cheap clothes for growing kids.
And with sustainability playing an increasingly important role in consumers’ decision-making, Goodwill’s combination of low prices and pre-owned goods is likely to continue to drive foot traffic growth.
Staples used to be an obligatory stop on the Back-to-School shopping circuit, but the company’s star has fallen in recent years as students replaced notebooks and pens with laptops and tablets. Still, the brand seems to have made somewhat of a comeback in recent months.
Staples is one of the many retailers that rightsized over the pandemic by closing over 100 stores, which has impacted its overall visit numbers. But visits per venue are inching closer to 2019 levels, with the June 2022 visit per venue gap standing at just 5.3% – a particularly impressive feat given the recent retail challenges. And the brand has already started offering Back-to-School discounts to help parents avoid the last-minute rush of late August – another reason to be optimistic about the legacy brand’s performance this season.
This year’s Back-to-School season poses a unique set of challenges – and opportunities. On the one hand, inflation may be inhibiting consumers from splurging on too much school supplies. But this is also the first year since 2019 with no remote learning on the horizon, which may prompt parents to invest more in backpacks, clothing, and other Back-to-School essentials for learning in the physical classroom. Brands that can cater to consumers’ current value orientation while offering an appropriate and diversified product mix are those most likely to thrive.
For more data-driven retail insights, visit Placer.ai.