We ask the PCR retail Advisory Panel what they think

How does the back to school period impact your business?

With millions of kids, students and teachers now on their summer breaks, it’s an ideal time for them to look at new computers before they return to schools and universities.

We ask the PCR Retail Advisory Panel about the advantages of the back to school period.

Every year, true to past form, the back to school rush happens in August. This provides a much needed lift in sales after the summer lull. For us this is the second biggest sales period of the year in both retail and repair.

We can always rely on purchases of the school essentials such as laptops and office suites, although this year we do expect a big shift towards tablets – not just for new purchases but consumers buying a tablet to complement their existing laptop – as people begin to realise the full potential and functionality of tablet devices.

In addition to the retail spike, we always see a large number of repairs coming in just after the kids are back at school for a mixture of reasons, whether it be leftover summer funds or simply parents finally getting the time to. Either way, this period provides a good platform to clear stock in preparation for the Christmas period.

The back to school period becomes less noticeable every year to us as kids seem to be on their computers and gadgets all year round. Adequate computer equipment and software is a must every day, and parents often hand down computer products to their kids when they upgrade to the latest laptop or tablet (I know I do).

Additionally, users can pick up viruses and experience internet access issues at anytime, and I hear most kids seem to promptly let their parents know about the issue – which is usually stated as an unbelievable emergency.

I feel when the latest gadget is released or refreshed, that’s the main driver for replacing equipment, rather than the time of year or when ‘sales’ are on at the major stores (perhaps with the exception of students going away to university or abroad and requiring IT equipment paid for by parents). Shopping habits have changed – the majority of customers use the internet.

We see a large influx in sales during the back to school period. We advertise heavily locally, capturing most of the market in the surrounding areas. We offer multiple sales and discounts leading up to it both in-store and online, offering early bird discounts and last chance offers. We use the hook and pull strategy, giving the student, parent or teacher a reason to shop with us due to our time-limited in-store and online discount codes.

We don’t only offer discounts to students, but parents and teachers alike, as they will also have to change their daily schedules. With some parents having more spare time on their hands, and most teachers having a higher workload, they potentially will need a more powerful computer or more up-to- date software and accessories to help them with it.

Up-selling is very effective during this period, as a high percentage of customers are on the lookout for office software, security software, messenger bags and external storage. We find simple percentage discounts seem to work best here, for example 50 per cent off all security software when bundled with a new laptop, desktop or tablet, or giving away smaller low-cost items if need be.

It’s not for everyone, but offering refurbished laptops can also be very effective, as even in primary schools, kids are heavily encouraged to own their own computer. Most parents understandably aren’t willing to spend hundreds of pounds on a brand new one for their young kids, so giving them a cheaper option certainly helps – and of course, all of the accessories you’d sell with a new system would still be viable here.

Finally, we capitalise on the extra footfall during the back to school period to educate new and existing customers. We showcase our latest range of products and services, as well as giving them the best possible shopping experience – so come Christmas, going to university or even setting up their own business – they know that Utopia Computers has a full range of technology and knowhow to kit them out.

The back to school period is when we start to see the first step change towards peak. We consider our products and offers very carefully at this time as back to school and back to university have different needs. As a general merch retailer there are great and broad offers which make life easy for shoppers.

We use a multitude of marketing to these customers including email, press, flyers and web.

Many Brigantia members will be busy during the long summer holiday period as they deliver upgrades and refresh projects to schools and colleges in their local areas throughout the UK. These projects will have been the result of months of planning, and have to be delivered over the holiday period ready for the new school and college year to start.

Hot on the agenda at the moment is virtualisation, allowing educational establishments to reduce costs and extend their IT capabilities. Brigantia members are armed with products and services ideal for the educational environment. They benefit from being on the doorstep and are able to eulogise about new technologies. As a group, Brigantia helps our members by finding new products and services suitable for this marketplace and then introduces technical and sales training. This is backed up with central marketing and a raft of support services including leasing and cloud services, which add additional upfront and recurring revenue margins.

Brigantia is a two-way street, with many ideas coming from members themselves. Through Brigantia these can can be introduced to the membership nationally, thus allowing aggregation in many areas from volume pricing to shared support. The name of the game is for Brigantia members to deliver best in breed solutions at low costs, while maintaining a reasonable profit for the hard work and effort put in.

Educational establishments benefit from having support for new technologies from established local businesses at highly competitive prices, while knowing that their supplier is part of a wider membership body adhering to a simple but strict code of ethics and professional conduct. Brigantia also has many members that specialise either through vendor relationships such as Apple or into specialist educational areas, and these members often work with the wider membership where they require local support.

Those Brigantia members with retail and online elements to their businesses will be making sure they have well-priced products ready for the back to school and college period. Laptop, printer, office product and stationery sales tend to spike towards the end of the holiday period.

Brigantia will be offering members some great back to school and college deals via the Brigantia ebuyer program and other specialist alliance distributors. Turn to page 49 to view the latest back to school hardware in our sector guide.

PCR asks its Retail Advisory Panel – formed of buyers and experts – about the biggest industry trends and issues each month. To join, email dominic.sacco@intentmedia.co.uk

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