Leading Retailers Attract Value-Minded BTS Shoppers

This is Part II of the Retail TouchPoints two-part Back-To-School (BTS) report. It delves into the various BTS money-saving options available from leading retailers and the role back-to-college shoppers play in the BTS market. Part I, which ran in the August 14, 2012, newsletter, highlighted several BTS trends and predictions for the new school year.

As consumers make their way to brick-and-mortar stores for the BTS shopping season, most will seek in-store, mobile and social promotions. To attract these shoppers, Kmart, Macy’s, JCPenney, Rite Aid, Staples and Walmart are among the retailers offering a variety of BTS savings options for back-to-school and back-to-college customers.

The National Retail Federation highlighted the impact of retailers’ omnichannel promotions, and shared other insights from the 2012 Back-To-School report. “This year consumers will spend smarter than they ever have before,” stated Matt Shay, NRF President and CEO, in the report. “We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with their promotions both in-store, online and via mobile, and to keep an eye on inventory levels as families spread their back-to-school and back-to-college shopping throughout the entire summer.”

College students and their families have fewer “needs” than the typical BTS grade-school student, “but they face higher costs due to tuition and living arrangements,” explained Shay, “so are much more likely to look for ways to cut corners.”


The NRF report indicated that back-to-college students and their families will spend an average of $907.22 in 2012 (up from $808.71 in 2011) on dorm furniture, collegiate gear, personal care items and school supplies. Close to 85% of BTC shoppers said the economy impacts their spending habits and that they will use e-Commerce sites to meet their budgets.

The study also noted that college students and their families plan to shop these retail segments in 2012 to help manage expenses:

  • Discount (51.9%);
  • Department (45.4%);
  • Office supplies (40.3%);
  • Clothing (34.8%);
  • Drug (22.3%); and
  • Electronics (21.2%).

Money-Saving Retail Strategies

As the economy continues to play a role in U.S. shoppers’ spending decisions, “retailers will offer back-to-school and back-to-college shoppers plenty of ways to save money in stores and on web sites,” Shay reported, “including bundles, discount cards and gift cards with purchases, all aimed at attracting the value-focused shopper.”

When seeking money-saving options, more consumers (74%) look for free shipping above any other incentive for BTS purchases, according to BTS survey results from PriceGrabber, an online shopping site that helps consumers find and compare prices.

As a savings option, “Free shipping will be a huge deciding factor when consumers purchase online,” said Graham Jones, GM of PriceGrabber, in a press release. “Savvy shoppers will get the most for their money by searching for coupons and actively using comparison shopping web sites to ensure they are getting the best deals.”

A majority (62%) of consumers also ranked price comparison shopping web sites as key to BTS savings this year, according to the PriceGrabber survey. “With the ability at one’s fingertips to monitor prices and shop around the clock,” Jones added, “today’s busy and money-conscious consumers are looking to online and mobile shopping as the go-to options for finding the best deals.”

Kmart, JCPenney And Rite Aid Promote Value

As consumers continue to seek convenience and value while shopping for BTS items, retailers plan to offer a variety of promotions and payment options during the BTS season.

Kmart is offering 5% off in-store and online layaways through August 25. The discount department store retailer also offers special weekly deals and extra perks through its Shop Your Way loyalty program, a social shopping experience allowing site members to earn points and receive benefits across a variety of physical and digital formats. In addition, Shop Your Way loyalty members can earn 10 points for every dollar spent, with every 1,000 points equaling $1 that can be used for future purchases at Kmart.

“During the back-to-school season, Kmart provides customers with exceptional deals and multiple opportunities to shop and pay for everything from school supplies to apparel, as well as the ability to buy online and pick up in stores,” Andy Stein, Interim CMO for Kmart, told Retail TouchPoints. He added that Kmart also expects increased  traffic in-store during state tax-free weekends, most of which take place in August.

In addition to offering sale and clearance items for BTS, JCPenney is providing free haircuts to children in grades Kindergarten through 6th grade during the month of August.

To help bridge the gap between online and brick-and-mortar store prices, Rite Aid has developed, a web site dedicated to value shopping. The site helps Rite Aid shoppers save with mail-in and online Single Check Rebates as well as Video Values, an incentive for consumers to print coupons in exchange for watching product videos. In addition, Rite Aid will include affordable BTS electronics such as color touchscreen tablets, Android-powered NetBooks and Texas Instruments TI-84 graphing calculators.

Staples And Macy’s Offer Technology, Fashion Savings

To better meet shoppers’ BTS needs and interest in deals and gadgets, Staples has revamped its advertising, marketing and merchandising plans for the 2012 shopping season. The approach includes “a circular in Sunday newspapers featuring specials like ‘glue for a penny’ and a package of copy paper for a quarter,” stated Demos Parneros, President of U.S. Retail at Staples. Because continued uncertainty about the economy may affect BTS shopping, Parneros said Staples’ strategy includes a 15%-off Back-to-School Savings Pass and the use of touchscreen devices to help shoppers search for computers and printers not on display.
While several retailers focus on technology, others, such as Macy’s, rely on vibrant, colorful BTS fashion apparel to draw foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores.

“Color in every fabric and silhouette provides a fresh palette and a great new look when heading back to class,” said Josh Saterman, Millennial VP and Fashion Director for Macy’s. “It’s all about the fun details that allow you to express yourself!”

During its BTS shopping sale, Macy’s is offering shoppers casual and uniform apparel as well as dorm accessories for students of all ages. In addition, Macy’s is providing free U.S. shipping to online shoppers who make a purchase of at least with $99.

Walmart Supports Parents’ BTS Resolutions

Most moms with children entering K-12 consider BTS a time for a fresh start, more so than January 1, and are making resolutions for the new school year, according to the Walmart Class of 2012 Back-To-School Survey.The report indicated that 78% of moms resolve to be better organized. To help them prepare, Walmart has launched, an e-Commerce site that assists moms in finding their children’s classroom supply lists and makes it easy to purchase those items via or in stores. Walmart is the first major retailer to digitize thousands of school supply lists from schools across the country.

Saving money also is a top resolution this BTS season, according to the Walmart survey, which found that the majority (75%) of moms are trying to cut BTS costs.

In addition, mothers surveyed identified BTS clothes, shoes and backpacks as their children’s three most important purchases for the 2012 school year. In response, Walmart’s online Back to School Closet Creator, launched July 2012 on, helps families on a budget to mix and match outfits.

For moms who shop at Walmart, “back-to-school isn’t just about checking items off their lists,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, Chief Merchandising Officer for Walmart U.S., in a press release. “It’s about a fresh start, changing routines and getting children ready with products that match their personalities and budgets.”

While most consumers are willing to spend for their children’s education, value-minded families are seeking the best deals this BTS shopping season. With retailers’ abundance of money-saving options, consumers can meet their budgets while shopping for the right tools for scholastic success this year.

Click here to download your complimentary copy of this two-part Back-To-School feature.

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