Tusco Display blog
Tusco Display blog

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Back to School?

Normally, retailers and brands would be executing well-established plans to master Back to School (BTS). Merchandise is ordered and in transit. Sales and promotions are planned. For obvious reasons, this year will be wildly different than usual. Will kids be in school or at home? Will colleges operate online or in-person or follow a hybrid model? Will fewer college-aged students actually go away to school vs taking a gap year? Many unknowns persist. Then again, we’re only 90 days since the economy tanked and we’re still 60 days away from the start of school. Much remains uncertain.

We suspect that shoppers will seek some semblance of normalcy in buying new apparel – kids grow out of or wear out clothes whether there’s a pandemic or not – and find comfort in shopping. Both online and physical stores must be prepared with the wares but we’re betting, with the shutdown of the economy and uncertainty of the past three months, many brands and retailers curtailed their buying and plans for promotion. Everyone will play things much closer to their vests. In other words, expect less inventory and more trouble finding what you want as a shopper. This won’t be the year of any big bets by brands; it’s a year of tightened belts and lowered expectations.

Due to the economy, reduced inventories, and uncertainty about school, the BTS market could shrink for 2020. In 2019, the average K-12 family spent just shy of $700 for BTS; the average college student family spent nearly $1000, boosted most by electronics. What will BTS 2020 bring? We’ll know more as August arrives.