Online Back-to-School Shopping Continues to Grow

Back to schoolThe school year hasn’t even ended for some kids and retailers are already getting geared up for the back-to-school shopping season. And by most predictions back-to-school has taken its place among seasonal retail events that is growing every year.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) says that the back-to-school season ranks as the second biggest shopping season for retailers, after the Christmas season.

US retail sales during the period of July and August 2017 will break last year’s record setting revenue. According to eMarketer’s latest forecast,US retail sales during those core months will reach an estimated $857.18 billion. That’s up 4 percent over 2016 and will account for 17 percent of total retail sales for the year.

And it’s even better news for online retailers. Ecommerce for the back-to-school season will grow 14.8 percent to  $74.03 billion in 2017. That amount represents 8.6 percent of total back-to-school retail sales (online and offline) for the period. That’s up from the 7.8 percent share last year, according to the eMarketer report.

Growth Continues

Because younger people prefer to shop online, eMarketer expects the ecommerce portion of back-to-school sales to continue to grow annually for the foreseeable future.

The report excluded home goods from core back-to-school product categories ,despite the big role that dorm shopping plays in back-to-school sales. However, there are five  other product categories that eMarketer deemed as playing “an outsized role” during the back-to-school season:

  • Apparel and accessories
  • Books, music and video
  • Computers and consumer electronics
  • Office equipment and supplies
  • Toys and hobbies, including sporting goods

back to schoolFor ecommerce players in these categories the projections are positive. Back-to-school ecommerce sales in these core categories during July and August will exceed quarterly growth for ecommerce overall at 15.8 percent. It will reach $37.56 billion, according to eMarketer.

Another upside for online retailers is that some researchers say the back-to-school shopping season extends beyond July and August. In 2016, the NRF said that in August only half of those surveyed had completed their school shopping. Couple that with NRF data that 48 percent of parents are influenced by back-to-school coupons and deals, and there is an opportunity for online retailers to take advantage of price sensitive procrastinators.