Overall sales of traditional back-to-school supplies are up significantly season-to-date versus 2020 and have now reached pre-pandemic levels from 2019 after seeing growth in recent weeks. 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 are all seeing elevated sales versus 2020's unprecedented back-to-school season.
Brands and retailers are leaning into promotions this back-to-school season, though promotions have softened slightly since the beginning of the season. Overall promoted products within Apparel are up versus 2020, while traditional School Supplies & Electronics are down slightly. Web promotions are down slightly versus last year, while weekly ads are down more significantly and email promotions are up. Staples holds 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 makes the top 5 list each year.
After elevated spending earlier in the season, ad spending is now down slightly versus last year for advertisements with back-to-school messaging, and is down even more significantly versus 2019. Kohl's currently has the highest back-to-school ad spend (up from #4 last year), while Walmart held the top spot last year (down to #4 this year). Target and JCPenny also find themselves on the Top 5 ad spenders list in 2021 and 2020 season-to-date.
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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