According to the National Retail Federation, Back-to-School spending is projected to reach $74.9 billion this year, making it the second largest spending season of the year. Ensuring in-store execution is flawless should be top of mind year round, but it’s especially critical during the July to September timeframe.
In order to gauge how American brands and retailers were faring, Gigwalk sent their army of mobile-enabled workers – also known as “Gigwalkers” – to 465 different retail locations across the country to report on in-store conditions during this busy time of year. Gigwalkers visited several retail channels including, super stores, office supply, drug stores, and discount/dollar stores.
During their visits, Gigwalkers analyzed general in-store conditions, display conditions and pricing. They also shared information on consumer trends such as general back-to-school spending and offline versus online shopping habits, among others. Using the Gigwalk mobile app, each Gigwalker collected data on six product categories: backpacks/book bags, writing utensils, notebooks/paper, lunchboxes, clothing, and tablets/computers to identify out-of-stock levels, broken displays, misplaced product or wrong displays, and pricing inaccuracies.
The findings revealed the good, the bad, and the ugly of retail execution this back-to-school season.
The Good – Spending is up & Wal-Mart is price matching
Consumer confidence is up to its highest level in seven years. It hit 90.9 percent in July and store traffic this season is predicted to be strong with consumers spending more. In fact, 49 percent plan to spend more for back-to-school.
Almost half of the time (43 percent), the need to purchase more expensive items, such as computers and tablets, was cited as the reason for the planned increase in spending.
Additionally, the willingness to price match is crucial. When Gigwalkers were asked “what factor is the most important when buying school supplies?,” 90 percent cited price over brand. The Gigwalkers found that Wal-Mart is hitting this sweet spot, as the majority of super stores, such as a Walmart, would match a competitor’s price. Second to super stores, at 48 percent, were office supply stores, like Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax.
The Bad – Stores are promoting back-to-school, but not effectively
Strong promotional display placement is critical to increasing a retailer’s share of basket and overall success so we were pleased to discover that 84 percent of retailers had a back-to-school display. However, out-of-stock continues to be a key issue for retailers. Gigwalkers reported 47 percent of the retailers had an issue with their back-to-school displays. 45 percent of these issues were due to the product being out of stock, followed by missing price and having the product in the wrong display.
A consumer can’t buy what’s not there – with $800 billion lost globally every year due to out-of-stocks, retailers need to get smart about retail execution or forego this potential revenue.
The Ugly – If you don’t have it, somebody else will
We closely examined the importance of brand and retail store affinity by asking what steps a shopper would take if a particular item was not available. The response is critical to retailers and brands alike, with 48 percent saying they would purchase at a different store and 36 percent saying they would buy another brand!
Retailers and brands must secure a smooth execution channel
Back-to-school is a busy time for retailers and brands, with so many benefits to be reaped, customers to please, and opportunities to shine. Don’t let poor retail execution prevent your company from making sales when consumers want and need your products and stores. People have money to spend and they want to get the biggest bang for their buck, so help them by price-matching, keeping things organized, and most importantly, making sure shelves are stocked. If interested in reviewing the full report, you can download the whitepaper “Walking the Aisles: Back-to-School 2014 Trends.”