Survey: Intense Back-to-School Selling Season

Schaumburg, Ill. Latest research from The Nielsen Co. showed that consumers won’t be skimping on supplies, despite the tightened economy.

Nielsen forecasted 2.6% growth, or more than $1.57 billion in school and office-supply sales in U.S. grocery, drug and mass-merchandiser stores during the core back-to-school season of mid-July through early September.

Back-to-school sales represent more than a quarter (28%) of the school and office-supply category’s annual sales of $5.5 billion.

The survey showed that the top five back-to-school supply categories (accounting for 64% of sales) were school/office paper and forms; personal planners, binders and folders; pens and pencils; ink jet and toner cartridges; and markers.

“Consumers may be cutting back in terms of discretionary spending, but they are not about to send their kids to school without the necessities,” said James Russo, VP of marketing, food and beverage sector, The Nielsen Co. “While we don’t expect to see a drop in back-to- school sales in this economic downturn, we do foresee changes in where consumers shop for back-to-school items, along with the prices they are willing to pay.”

With nearly 100% household penetration, Nielsen found that grocery stores may prove to be the winner this season, as consumers seek to combine shopping trips. Nielsen In-Store research showed that in August and September 2007, nearly 850 million consumers visited measured grocery stores, compared to an average two-month period of slightly more than 500 million consumers. Grocery stores saw more than 105 million consumers visit the home, school and office-supply departments during the back-to-school period, marked by an increase in traffic mid-August and a traffic spike during the first week of September.

More than 1.3 billion consumers visited measured mass merchandisers in August and September 2007, with 162 million consumers shopping the home, school and office-supply departments, and the highest level of traffic taking place during the first week of August.

For 2008, Nielsen predicts a shorter but more intense back-to-school selling season, as consumers are likely to delay the start of their shopping, opting to hold out for increasingly aggressive sales and promotional activity by retailers.

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