BOSTON - July 28, 2021 -- The back-to-school buying frenzy is on, sparked by cost-conscious consumers’ fears of increasing prices and low availability for in-demand goods.
Data from eCommerce analytics firm Profitero shows a dramatic year-over-year increase in Amazon searches for traditional back-to-school and college items compared to 2020 when the pandemic put a damper on demand.
“Amazon search trends are a strong early indicator of retail sales. Our data indicates this back-to-school shopping season is trending to be a big one, especially for the classic supplies parents didn’t buy last year,” says Mike Black, Chief Marketing Officer at Profitero. “Inflation is up, and deal-hunting is key with cost savings top of mind.”
Here is a snapshot of this year’s back-to-school trends:
Consumer searches spiked for these back-to-school essentials now that remote learning is (hopefully) in the rearview mirror.
Trusted brands are top of mind and seeing big jumps in demand.
School tech essentials for leaving the house are trending on the back-to-school list.
Americans are preparing to send their kids back to school with these college essentials:
Where back-to-school shoppers can get the best prices
Price inflation is driving up the cost of back-to-school shopping this year and weighing heavily on consumer wallets. In July, the Labor Department reported that price inflation reached its highest level in 13 years, and inflation levels are even higher for some back-to-school items when looking at prices online, according to Profitero. “The cost of buying office supplies online has gone up 4.2% since last June and clothing has gone up 10.1%. We don’t expect this trend to reverse dramatically through the summer since retailers know demand is high and supply is low,” says Black.
That said, certain retailers are competing hard to win over cost-conscious consumers.
Profitero analyzed pricing data from the big four online retailers (Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy) and found that Amazon offered consumers the lowest prices on similar back-to-school products, on average 10% less than other retailers.
Average online price difference for back-to-school / college supplies at leading retailers compared to Amazon's prices:
“Based on our analysis, Walmart is clearly targeting the college crowd more than the back-to-school shopper with discounts, aiming to beat out Amazon," adds Black. "Meanwhile, Target is banking on its loyal customer base and charging premium prices, leaving Amazon and Walmart to duke it out to win over the deal seekers.”
Each day, Profitero monitors prices and other data for millions of product pages on hundreds of unique retailer sites. For this study, Profitero analyzed daily online prices collected over a ~four-week period (June 22 to July 18, 2021) at Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com and Bestbuy.com across approximately 2,300 top-rated products, representing back-to-school categories. Only identical in-stock items in the same pack configuration were compared. Prices for the same items were collected within 24 hours of each other to ensure validity of the comparisons.
Profitero also analyzes weekly data from Amazon search frequency rank reports across the top 100,000 searched-for terms. The % change in rank indicates changes in consumer search behavior, which can be used as an early indicator of sales trends.