Even if you represent a retail industry that traditionally doesn't participate in back-to-school sales, probably the news about preparations for this season hasn't passed you by. The point is that the 2021 season turned out to be unique in some ways. Firstly, most countries have lifted COVID-related restrictions, so the sale format has reverted to pre-pandemic habits. For example, according to the Sensormatic’s survey, 34% of families planned to start their back-to-school shopping both in-stores and online compared to only 17% of consumers in 2020 and 39% of consumers in 2019. Secondly, most analysts predicted that 2021 was also expected to be a unique year in terms of financial growth. For example, the National Retail Federation projected the total shopping spending during the season will reach $37.1 billion (an increase of 7.5% YoY, compared to $33.9 billion in 2020). Deloitte claimed that the confidence and clarity are creating a sense of normalcy for the upcoming school year. As parents look to replenish school items, back-to-school spending was projected to rise 16% YoY. 

Another trend predicted the prevalence of digital learning tools over traditional school supplies, driving tech sales up 37% YoY. Even as schools open, more than half of the surveyed families planned to spend on online resources.

Have the predictions come true? 

While retailers are summing up the financial results of their back-to-school campaigns, we at Competera decided to look at how the season was going regarding sales activity and whether we can confirm the analysts' trends. To do this, we analyzed the data of 11 retailers worldwide. The study covered 111 product sub-categories under the 'Back-to-School' category. This number equaled a total of 8,367 items. The evaluation period is from early June to the end of August. 


Key back-to-school 20201 findings

We hope our infographic speaks for itself, but we would like to highlight a few trends:

  • According to the stock dynamics, demand for school supplies in 2021 was so strong that the retailers' stocks were half-empty from mid-July to the beginning of August. The situation only leveled off towards the end of the selling season. 

  • The maximum product share on promo in 2021 reached the 94.2% mark at the beginning of the season, and 91.1% of products at minimum went off at a discounted price as the back-to-school shopping season was in full swing.

  • Shoppers had a wide range of items to choose from. The average range overlap between players was about 33% across all categories.

  • 10% was the most frequent price discount applied daily. The second and third most popular deals were 20% and 40% discounts.  

  • 93% of items in the back-to-school categories had promos. 

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