Back to School, Reimagined


Back-to-school shopping is one of the biggest retail holidays of the year. In 2019, consumers spent more than $26 billion in their shopping to stock up for the school year. Like so many traditions impacted in 2020, the usual back-to-school scramble felt different this year. Supply lists shifted to include Chromebooks, teaching easels, and kid-sized desks, as parents are doing their best to make their home an efficient learning space. 

Technology needs of the online classroom drove sales up, for an estimated total of $33.9 billion. Online retail sales are seeing an unsurprising increase across all industries, and school supplies have been no exception. 70% of parents and students have shifted to buying supplies online due to COVID-19.  

Retail brands that typically see a surge in demand during the back-to-school season had to pivot their tried-and-true strategies to meet the suddenly changing needs of their consumers. These brands now have to support their consumers in a different way. Going forward, they have to determine and communicate how their products can fit into our new virtual, homebound routines. 

Positioned as “communication essentials”, Bic is a brand that has become fundamental to back-to-school supplies. In a time of changing communication structures, they have an opportunity to build trust in their consumer base by striving to remain the go-to supplies for learning, despite the shift to virtual classrooms. For example, their Evolution® pencils are sturdy and long-lasting, and could be positioned to parents as perfect for stocking up shelves with supplies that won’t need constant replacing.  

Tasked with finding hands-on activities that encourage creativity and provide a break from the screen, parents are purchasing supplies like Softee Dough. Softee Dough recently launched a new look for their modelling clay kits. The new design stands out both on shelf and digitally, a necessity in this era of increased online shopping.  

In addition to school supplies, parents have been looking for quick and easy snack options for their kids at home. Snacks that kids can access independently during their virtual lessons are in high demand. Skippy’s mess-free peanut butter in their new squeeze pouch is convenient for snacking between online assignments.

This back to school season brought attention to the need for nimble and flexible brand strategies. With the holiday season quickly approaching, brands will need to apply learnings from this fall to their holiday retail strategies.  

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