Know more about 2021 back-to-school shopping.

The Numerator Back-to-School Tracker provides weekly insight into back-to-school (BTS) related advertising, promotions, and consumer buying behavior throughout the BTS shopping season. The advertising intel leverages our Back-to-School messaging flag to track ads featuring back-to-school messaging and keywords, while the omnichannel promotional and consumer buying insights track key back-to-school categories.

*This tracker has ended, there will be no further updates.

Back-to-School Shopping

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.


Back-to-School Promotions

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.


Back-to-School Advertising

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.


Subscribe for future insights from Numerator.

Grow more with modern insights.

Get your free demo today!

Our industry-leading panel is bigger and better than ever — going beyond omnichannel to give brands and retailers the insights they need to grow in ever-changing markets.