Back-to-School Sales Are Already Starting as Shoppers Seek More Deals

family back-to-school shopping

Back-to-school sales are getting earlier and earlier, as brands and retailers look to beat their competition to the punch.

Apple, for instance, has already kicked off its deals for the season, with deals having gone live Thursday (June 20), according to the tech giant’s site, and running through September. For eligible students, parents, employees at an educational institution or board members, among others, the company is providing Apple Gift Cards ranging from $100 to $150 toward the purchase of specific Macs or iPads. Other, smaller deals are also available via Apple’s education savings.

While it may make sense that some consumers would want to get a jump on making costly, important purchases, such as buying a computer, so that they can manage the rest of their budgets accordingly, it is not only companies such as Apple getting a head start on the back-to-school season. Office Depot OfficeMax announced Monday (June 17) that it is partnering with Dormify to sell the latter’s dorm supplies, from furniture to décor, in nearly 200 stores.

Even legislatures are getting involved in extending back-to-school season. According to Jackson, Mississippi’s WJTV, the state’s three-day Sales Tax Holiday for school supplies starts as early as July 12. The Mississippi Senate cited changing school schedules as a reason for the decision.

“Now that many schools in Mississippi have gone to a modified calendar, this will allow many shoppers to get their school supplies before school actually starts,” state Sen. Walter Michel commented.

Yet these moves may not be as early as they seem. A survey from LTK found that a third of consumers have begun back-to-school shopping by late June, and nearly half have started by early July.

Overall, many merchants are extending sales seasons, with Black Friday deals often lasting the whole week, and with dozens of major brands and retailers elongating their Memorial Day sales until after the holiday’s end. Retailers and marketplaces alike have noted that consumers are increasingly concentrating their spending around peak sales seasons.

Indeed, deal-seeking is the norm. The PYMNTS Intelligence report “2024 Global Digital Shopping Index: U.S. Edition,” created in collaboration with Visa Acceptance Solutions, finds that three-quarters of U.S. retail shoppers want digital coupons, and a similar share said the same of relevant promo codes.

Notably, early sales may not be the best way to reach the highest-value customers.

If back-to-school shoppers’ habits at all mimic gift buyers’ holiday season ones, PYMNTS Intelligence research indicates that those making purchases early may not be the ones who intend to buy the most. A survey of more than 5,000 consumers in January found that 62% of those buying one or two items for someone else over the winter holidays decided on the gifts ahead of time. In contrast, only 18% of those springing for more than five presents planned in advance.

Still, overall, the study found, most consumers are pre-planning at a time when they know that they will be spending a considerable amount. Fifty-six percent of consumers surveyed had already decided what to buy for most or all purchases before going shopping.

As many consumers look to get ahead of their back-to-school purchases, retailers are best suited to consider flexible shopping experiences that cater to both early and late shoppers, leveraging data on their customers’ purchasing patterns in school seasons past to tailor their marketing strategies accordingly. By staying agile and responsive to consumer needs, retailers can maximize their sales potential throughout the extended back-to-school season and beyond.

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