As summer proceeds, back-to-school shopping serves as a boost for retail foot traffic and sales. But under 2022 conditions of inflation, labor shortages and online initiatives, the annual return-to-class season is bound to have its ups and downs based on consumer concerns, which Placer.ai has been evaluating.
In a new report by the foot traffic tracker entitled Retailers Positioned to Benefit from Back-to-School 2022, Placer.ai spotlights the opportunities and challenges physical and virtual stores presently face.
For example, according to Placer.ai:
- Duality. Retailers will have to accommodate students who are going back to in-person classes with a need for new supplies but who are also dealing with inflation and looking for storerunners who will help them afford what they need and want.
- Target versus Walmart. The two discounters are on different trajectories. Heading into the back-to-school shopping season, Target physical store visits were up 11.1% in June compared to 2019, and up 13.5% in May. Walmart, however, saw visits down 3.6% in June, and flat in May compared to 2019.
- The Rest of the Field. Other retailers in the report are up and down with Staples seeing visits increase slowly, but in June, still short 11% compared to 2019. Store visits gained 4.7% at Five Below, 0.4% at Dollar Tree, 13.1% at Family Dollar and 7.5% at Dollar General as compared with pre-COVID-19 pandemic 2019.
In a blog post, Placer.ai vp of marketing Ethan Chernofsky noted that this year’s back-to-school season creates unique considerations for retailers. Inflation may be restraining consumers from excessive school supply spending. Still, this is also the first year since 2019 with little to no remote learning, so parents may invest more in essentials for learning in the physical classroom. With that being the case, brands that can provide value while offering an appropriate and diversified product mix could come out ahead, Chernofsky indicated.