Marketplaces miss out on back to school in the UK

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More than half of UK parents completed their new back to school shopping a month before the autumn term starts, according to new online research from YouGov and global payment provider, Ingenico Group.

The study of 2,000 consumers across Britain found that 52% of those intending to go back to school shopping say they have it finished before the end of July.

The consumer responses match up with Ingenico’s own payment data from previous summers, which shows a consistently high volume of transactions throughout late July and early August. This is followed by a significant mid-August lull as families head off on holiday and a pre-term spike as last-minute shoppers snap up their final items.

Men are the worst culprits when it comes to procrastinating, with 14% only buying supplies in the last week or even after term has started, compared with just 6% of women. Millennials are also far less prepared than older generations with just over a quarter (27%) of 18-24 year olds saying they finish their shopping before the end of July. Some 72% of 35-44 year olds, meanwhile, have school preparation wrapped up by this point. Of those surveyed, frequent Snapchat users also tend to act on the spur of the moment, leaving it far later than those who favour Facebook and Twitter.

“As ‘back to school’ has a clear cut-off date – when children often need new shoes to replace the ones they haven’t tried on for six weeks – it may be that offering next-day click and collect could prove to be a key differentiator for retailers; we see something similar in the week leading up to Christmas Day, where those offering it generally generate far higher sales growth than those who don’t.

Stores have an important role to play in Back to School, as kids need to get their feet measured and try on clothes – but this ‘limitation’ of online never seems to stop people from buying clothes and shoes remotely and returning those items that don’t fit. Indeed, year-to-date in 2018 footwear has been one of the strongest-growing online sectors we are tracking”
– Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG

Almost half (45%) of respondents intending to purchase supplies for the new academic year head to high street stores or online retailers for their back to school shopping while just 38% shop at online marketplaces. This differs from the US where back to school campaigns on marketplaces have a much higher profile.

“Our research shows that mums and dads in the UK don’t want to be on the back foot when it comes to getting their children ready for the new school year. The earlier they complete their shopping, the more likely they are to find everything on their list. Retailers of all sizes need to ensure they cater to and encourage the early-bird shoppers by making sure their stocks and their marketing are focused on this end-July and early August period, rather than leaving it late.

That presents a huge opportunity for merchants large and small. Online marketplaces have yet to put their stamp on Back to School, giving retailers a chance to maximise the benefits of their own brand heritage. Nurturing a reputation for quality and robustness will draw in conscientious parents and establish relationships that may well develop into brand loyalty”
– Marc Birkner, Managing Director of Small & Medium Businesses, Ingenico Group

Young adults, many of which will be going to university, should also be a key focus for online retailers. Tech is the biggest cost for 22% of 18-24 year olds, a figure nearly three times as high as the 35+ category (8%). However, students preparing to move away from home also have a very broad range of product requirements including everything from kettles to stationary to duvets. Targeting this demographic with both mid-summer and last-minute campaigns is likely to yield impressive results each summer.

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