Real-Time Insights To A Shopping Season Unlike Any Before

2020 Back-to-School Index

In order to provide retailers and manufacturers with the fastest, most complete view into this unprecedented back-to-school season, Numerator is launching the 2020 Back-to-School (BTS) Index. The Index will provide weekly insight into omnichannel BTS advertising, promotional and purchase data as consumers shift from bricks to clicks to shop for a school year filled with uncertainty.

The Numerator Back-to-School Index tracks advertising, promotional and consumer buying behavior each week vs year ago. The advertising intel tracks ads with back-to-school messaging and keywords, while the promotional and consumer buying insights track three key category groupings:

  • School Supplies including: notebooks, writing supplies, drawing supplies, and more
  • Electronics including: computers & accessories, tablets & eReaders, electronics accessories and more 
  • Apparel including: accessories, footwear, boys & girls apparel and more 

Consumer Purchase Insights for Back to School

Back-to-school supply and apparel sales exceed year-ago levels in latest weeks, as this year's extended back-to-school season passes the end of a typical BTS season. 

  • While the typical back-to-school season would typically be dropping off about now, school supply and apparel sales surpassed year ago levels in the latest weeks as some students returned to their classrooms.
  • Sales of electronics saw a slight decline, as many families have already purchased what they need for virtual learning.
  • The portion of sales made online is up across categories as families lean more heavily on delivery and click-and-collect
Back-to-school product sales 2020

Advertising Intel for Back to School

Ads with back-to-school messaging continued a slight upward trend after a few weeks of significant decline.

  • While BTS ads at this time last year began to wind down, this year's BTS ads are picking back up as more schools and universities add clarity to their school year plans
  • Media mix remains nearly identical between 2020 and 2019, with over two-thirds of ads coming from TV or online display
Back-to-School Advertising Insights 2020

Promotions Intel for Back to School

Back-to-school promotions increased slightly this week, but remain below 2019 levels, with brands and retailers are holding their promotions in response to uncertainty and tempered consumer demand for BTS products

  • Significant promotional activity from Staples in week 29 and from Amazon in week 30 led to promo spikes versus year ago, though overall activity remains low across the board
  • Promotions are shifting from print to web, matching consumers who are increasingly turning to online over in-store shopping
Back-to-School Promotional Insights 2020

What Consumers are Saying

Early insights into consumer sentiment provide a glance into how different this BTS season will be: 

  • 3 out of 4 households (77%) indicate that their back-to-school shopping experience will be different with 1 in 3 households (30%) indicating they will not bring their children to stores for the normal school supply selection. 
  • 2 of 5 households (41%) plan to primarily shop online and have their supplies delivered. 1 in 4 will use Click & Collect for school supplies creating a partial “school trip” experience. 
  • Households expecting to buy back-to-school supplies dropped from 94% in 2019 to 78% in 2020.
For a more on how consumers are thinking about back-to-school shopping, read the full report >>

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