US Retailers Try to Move Back-to-School Shopping to July

Retailers Shift Back-to-School Shopping to July for Competitive Edge

American children might savor the last days of their summer freedom, but retailers, led by Walmart, Target, and Shein, are pushing to start the back-to-school season earlier than ever. In an aggressive bid to compete with Amazon’s Prime Day, these retail giants are rolling out promotions starting this week, hoping to capture those critical consumer dollars sooner.

The strategy is clear: attract parents shopping for school essentials like sneakers, computers, clothing, and backpacks before they turn to Amazon’s Prime Day on July 16-17. This year, the back-to-school campaigns are launching on average two days earlier than in previous years. “Retailers are looking to grow market share,” notes Brian Jacobsen, Chief Economist at Annex Wealth Management. “It’s not good enough to have bigger discounts. You need them earlier than your rivals.”

Target, for example, has started its week-long event earlier than last year, offering significant discounts on items such as school uniforms and backpacks. Walmart is also touting its “largest deals event ever” with a similar move. Shein, not to be left behind, is launching a seven-week back-to-school sale two days ahead of its 2023 schedule.

TikTok Shop, owned by Bytedance, is joining this early sales push with overlapping promotions from July 15 to 17. According to Brian McCarthy of Deloitte Consulting, more families are planning to complete their back-to-school shopping by the end of July, prompted by these advance discounts.

Parents are responding to these early incentives. Jewelia Stanley from Tampa, Florida, expects to spend $1,200 on her kids’ back-to-school needs, pointing to a $300 increase from last year. The most significant purchases? Shoes from high-range brands like Nike or New Balance, priced between $99 and $250 a pair.

Last year, back-to-school spending reached an estimated $41.5 billion for K-12 students, growing to $135.5 billion when college students are included, as per the National Retail Federation. Amazon’s Prime Day, though a behemoth in its own right, spearheads this retail rush with significant sales expected to contribute 1-2% of Amazon’s annual net sales, which totaled $574.8 billion in 2023.

By advancing their promotions, retailers hope to outpace competitors and grab a larger piece of the retail pie. This tactic mirrors last year’s holiday sales strategy, which saw Walmart and Amazon launch end-of-year promotions as early as October.

As back-to-school promotions start earlier each year, the impact on sales is undeniable. Last year’s Amazon Prime Day alone saw U.S. online sales across retailers hit $12.7 billion, marking Amazon’s highest single-day sales in company history.

With parents eager to stretch their dollars further, the early rush for back-to-school discounts seems primed to continue, shaping spending habits and retail strategies alike.

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