Retailers chase the ‘back to school’ dollars

No doubt to the joy and relief of some parents, the start of the new school year is just on the horizon. So as kids and students start compiling their ‘back to school’ (BTS) kits, some brands are making the most of the country’s stationery and lunchbox fervour.

With retail expert Francesca Nicasio describing the BTS period as “the second biggest shopping event of the year”, retailers are using a number of ways to capitalise on this lucrative opportunity. At Warehouse Stationery, the retailer has released a series of helpful videos online (by 99). One four-part series titled ‘What Not To Do’, the videos go through a humorous list of handy ‘don’ts’, giving out practical tips such as no yoghurt pots in bags or curried egg sandwiches in the summer, to advising against embarrassing faux pas like crying after dropping your child off at school or pulling out a slice of the 80s slang (did someone say ‘radical’?).

The online series provides a nice tie-in to the brand’s overarching ‘We do doing” positioning released last year, and makes up the social layer of Warehouse Stationery’s BTS campaign. 

“The brand spot we released at the end of last year featured several elements relating to children, parents and school, setting the tone for ‘back to school’,” says managing director of 99 Paul Manning. 

Manning adds that ‘back to school’ is Warehouse Stationery’s key annual sales event, with the retailer one of the country’s most prominent advertisers during the BTS period.

“Research has shown that Warehouse Stationery is overwhelmingly New Zealand’s favourite ‘back to school’ stationery brand—69% of Kiwis shop at Warehouse Stationery and the brand has 61% top of mind awareness, both of which have continued to grow year-on-year.”

Staying within the The Warehouse Group family, The Warehouse has come out with a dramatic take on the ‘back to school’ theme for their latest advertisement by DDB. In an attempt to promote their stationery, backpack, and computer range, the 30-second ad revs up a triumphant mood as students run, bike, and skate their way to a new school year.

On the retailer’s Facebook page, the ad has received an overwhelmingly positive response, with a sizeable number of users proudly pointing out that the video was filmed at Auckland’s Otahuhu College.

Beyond stationery staples like pen and paper, New World has come out with a series of tips—also developed by 99—to help parents going through the daily grind of packing the school lunchbox. The supermarket’s website lists a number of recipes like bacon and egg pies, chicken rolls, and chocolate bliss balls as a shake up to the usual humdrum of sandwich and chips.

According to online price comparison website PriceMe, demand for stationery and technology has increased significantly between the first and 16th of January. The most significant surge in demand has been with calculators as the website reports a 221 percent increase compared to average statistics from 2016. The Casio Graphics Calculator has proved particularly popular, with the pricey item often a regular staple in high school mathematics classes.

PriceMe also reports a 45 percent increase in demand for backpacks. Star Wars backpacks have proven the most popular, no doubt boosted by last month’s cinematic release of Rogue One.

In a sign of the times, a rising number of schools have been implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives where students bring their own laptops and tablets for educational purposes. PriceMe has recorded a 29 percent increase in demand for tablets (especially the iPad Mini and low-priced refurbished iPads) and a 36 percent increase in demand for Chromebooks (especially educational ones such as the HP Education Notebook and the Acer Premium Education Notebook). Furthermore, low-end first-time phones—such as Alcatel phones—have also surged in popularity, with mobile phones becoming more and more prevalent among younger students.

Furthermore, retail management software company Vend reports that in the last two weeks of January 2016, spending in book stores increased by 114 percent compared to the first two weeks of January, and in music instrument and supply stores by 78 percent. Spending on children’s clothing also increased by 4 percent in the last two weeks of January, prior to school starting. 

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