Late summer is upon us again. For most of us this means working in sweltering heat and suffering rainy weekends, but for the children of the nation it means that the best six weeks of the year are drawing to a close.
This is traditionally the time when parents are making sure that their child has all the clothing and equipment that they'll need for a new school year. It's a time when university freshmen enjoy a period of unprecedented access to their parents' credit account before leaving home for the first time, and for these reasons, the back to school period is a time that offers retailers a valuable boost to sales.
"The back to school promotional market offers retailers a fantastic opportunity to maximise sales of education software during this key period," says Avanquest's marketing manager Debbie Hives. "The overall category is huge, covering everything from back to school essentials like pens, pencils and clothing to books, toys, games, software and so on. With massive in-store promotional activity across multiple categories, store traffic increases dramatically, along with a parent's propensity to spend."
"The back to school market has historically been a great period for sales and promotions," concurs Koch Media's head of software sales Joanna Kemp. "It's a busy time of the year where retailers always maximise in-store and online presence with key titles and it gives publishers a large pre-peak sales boost. This is one of the key times of the year for sales – aside from Easter and the annual Christmas peak. Back to school is a major sales time for all publishers."
Focus Multimedia's PR and marketing manager Grant Hughes adds: "Back to school and Easter are the key promotional periods for educational software. Many of our retail partners already find that educational software fits in well with their existing back to school promotions. Educational software isn't always thought of as a gifting purchase, but we do typically see a marked sales increase in December too."
Due to its consistent sales all year round, the children's educational market is often described as an evergreen market, and it is also unique in that it is blessed with a constantly self-refreshing consumer base.
The education system is something that every citizen of this country passes through and so with each passing year, a new segment of the population arises to demand these products. Even better news for IT retailers is that the PC remains the platform of choice for those in education.
"Every child uses a computer at school and the PC is still the most popular learning and revision tool in the home," remarks Hughes. "Our own range of educational PC software taps into this market by helping parents to improve their children's learning skills when they are out of school. As a result they are much more likely to excel while they are in school. In the past, there have been attempts to bring educational software to games consoles and even handhelds, but we are finding that most parents still prefer their children to learn using a PC."
While the recession has had a broad impact on customer spending, Hives remains confident that the back to school period can still offer a boost to sales: "The education market – like all other markets – has been affected by the economic downturn, but the second half of the year looks more promising. As retailers look to broaden their PC offering, we're optimistic about both the back to school period and the run-up to the fourth quarter and the Christmas period."
Although this is a good time for sales, the wise retailer won't just wait for the customers to come in. Pushing the right products at the right time can make all the difference.
"The back to school market offers high margin potential and the ability to deliver volume sales at the end of what is a traditionally quiet period in retail," continues Hives. "A well delivered, aggressive, high impact promotion on education titles always delivers a significant uplift in sales."
Choosing the right products can be a tricky business for some retailers, especially those without a clear-cut customer base. Fortunately some distributors and resellers are able to offer some guidance in picking the products that will sell.
"For retail and online it's all about product selection and a massive instore or online presence to attract customers, coupled with strong promotional deals," says Kemp. "Koch works with all of its customers to ensure that we are offering maximum support during this key sales period."
"Make sure you stock trusted brands that parents are likely to recognise, and try to cater for the different age ranges," advises Hughes.
"We find the most successful retailers are those who run back to school promotions as part of their key promotional activity, in particular grocery stores where the promotions are capable of covering multiple product categories," declares Hives.
"I would suggest dedicated in-store space using endcaps or cardboard display stands to promote a broad range of titles that cover all the key age groups and subjects. Multi-buy promotions work well as they encourage customers to increase their total spend and therefore deliver more revenue for the retailer. Most parents tend to have more than one child of school age so it's a great way for them to buy multiple titles at a discounted price."