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Adapting to the COVID-19 Back-to-School Season

Adapting to the COVID-19 Back-to-School Season

August 26, 2020

The two biggest seasons for retail have always been the winter holidays and back-to-school. Yet in 2020, nothing is for certain as the retail landscape has severed ties with the presumed annual patterns. Despite the confusion, retailers can still see the needed spike in sales if they adjust their strategies to meet this new moment. So, how has the pandemic changed the back-to-school checklist, and what will that mean for retailers?

Ambiguous Shopping Lists

With families across the country confused about the new meaning of back-to-school, they are unsure about where and when their students will be learning. For some students, remote learning is the “new normal” while others are navigating a complicated hybrid or in-person system. As a result, some students will be buying the latest webcams and laptops while others search for new clothes, masks and a sturdy backpack.

According to Greg Petro at Forbes, consumers are basing purchases on their immediate needs during COVID-19. For back-to-school shopping, this could mean severe fluctuations in demand. For example, if schools start remote and gradually transition to in-person, students will need laptop chargers now and paper notebooks next month. Retailers must forgo leveraging data from previous buying patterns, adjust to flexible logistic plans and focus on the current localized landscape in real time.

Impact on Retail

According to NRF’s annual Back-to-School and Back-to-College survey, parents with children in elementary school through high school are expecting to increase their school spending by 11.75% while college students are expecting a 7.7% increase. Sales are predicted to rise among technology purchases, dorm furnishings, and traditional school supplies, while clothing is expected to remain consistent with last year’s sales.

Regardless of brick-and-mortar stores reopening across the country, more families and students are planning to shop online than last year, and they are unlikely to comparison shop. NRF’s survey results also determined that the back-to-school season will be elongated as some students still await the decision from their local authorities about the learning format.

Meeting the Moment with NGC’s Digital Supply Chain Platform

New COVID-19 outbreaks are changing school decisions on a local and regional level every day and supply and demand of typical school items will adjust just as frequently. As a result, the importance of AI cannot be understated. With NGC’s cloud-based digital supply chain platform,  the flexibility of your entire supply chain can be adjusted to prepare your business for the latest school updates. Contact us today so we can help you make the most of this critical retail season.