Overall sales of traditional back-to-school supplies were up significantly versus 2020 and inched closer to pre-pandemic levels later in the season. Sales began picking up the second week of July, as we've seen historically in pre-pandemic back-to-school seasons, and Prime Day 2021 also gave a slight boost at the beginning of the season. Core BTS products like coloring supplies, writing & correction supplies, notebooks and folders all saw elevated sales versus 2020's unprecedented back-to-school season.
Brands and retailers leaned into promotions this back-to-school season, though promotions softened slightly toward the end of the season. Overall promoted products within Apparel were up versus 2020, while traditional School Supplies & Electronics were down slightly. Web promotions were down slightly versus last year, while weekly ads were down more significantly and email promotions were up. Staples held the top spot for most promoted back-to-school products season-to-date this year and last, followed by Macy's and Target. Best Buy also made the top 5 list each year.
After elevated spending earlier in the season, ad spending was down slightly versus last year for advertisements with back-to-school messaging, and was down even more significantly versus 2019. Kohl's had the highest back-to-school ad spend (up from #5 last year), while Walmart held the top spot last year (down to #3 this year). Target and JCPenny also found themselves on the Top 5 ad spenders list in 2021 and 2020.
Additional Back-to-School Content
2021 – Back to School,
Back to Normal?
Check out our latest blog to learn more about what to expect for the 2021 back-to-school season
2020 – Back to School 101: Planning Amidst a Pandemic
Read our 2020 blog to learn what parents said last year as they prepared for an unprecedented school year
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