Back-to-school Retail Sales, Traffic to Rise

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Back-to-school Retail Sales, Traffic to Rise


This August, retailers can expect parents to shop and spend more during the back-to-school season than they did last year.

According to Chicago-based ShopperTrak, national retail sales, when compared to the same period last year, will rise 4.3 percent in August, and retail foot traffic will increase 0.6 percent.

"Back-to-school shopping is the first major 'shopping season' of the calendar year, and has the potential to set the tone for the holidays," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. "The economy is, in many ways, stronger than it was last August. We expect that the 2013 season will continue the growth trend of both retail sales and foot traffic."

In 2012, back-to-school sales increased 5.9 percent compared to the previous year; in 2011, those sales increased 4.5 percent over 2010.

Likewise, while this year's retail foot traffic increase may seem incremental, it continues the positive trend. In 2012, foot traffic increased a substantial 11 percent, compared to back-to-school traffic in 2011. That year, foot traffic declined 5.1 percent from 2010.

The expected increases in August reflect the U.S. economy's slow but steady gains. For example, unemployment this year is lower than it was during last year's back-to-school season. Though consumer sentiment does not impact retail sales immediately, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index recently reached its highest level since the beginning of the recession.

In recent years, back-to-school shoppers had focused on stores with the best values. But with this positive consumer sentiment, shoppers may be more willing to "shop around" at more stores – not just the value locations – thus adding to the increased foot traffic and sales.

"On the whole, more people feel better about their financial situation than they did last year in August," Martin added. "Parents are ready to spend on their children's school necessities…In order to seize this opportunity, smart retailers must prepare their marketing and operations to increase their foot traffic, sales and ultimately, their shopper conversion rates."