According to Meijer, students are looking for school supplies that “pop,” with the biggest design themes being gaming, sharks, dinosaurs, marble, tie-dye, space, rainbows and animals.
Back-to-school shopping is in full swing. Merchandise buyers at Midwest Meijer stores have stocked more than 1,800 items in anticipation of one of the busiest shopping seasons as families transition from remote learning to in-class education.
According to the Washington D.C.-based National Retailer Association, families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend $848.90, $59 more than last year, on average on back-to-school items. Total back-to-school spending is expected to reach $37.1 billion, up from $33.9 billion last year and an all-time high in the survey's history.
"Families really want to be prepared for returning to classes, so the enthusiasm for in-person learning is really evident as they shop in our stores," said May Graceffa, director of back-to-school merchandising for Meijer. "We're seeing parents collaborating with students to plan 'their' look and choose the supplies that will best match their personalities while sitting in class and walking through school halls."
According to Graceffa, the following trends for the coming school year are expected across the Midwest:
- Upgrading backpacks: Many students who have been learning remotely may have outgrown the backpack they used two years ago. Even if it still fits, students may need to upgrade their backpacks to carry laptops, tablets and electronic accessories, or find a pack that better fits their style as they enter a new grade. The most popular options from a parent's perspective might be backpacks featuring added safety features to protect expensive electronics and valuables.
- Sporty and outdoorsy: For students into sports, Adidas, Champion and Under Armour are top trends. High Sierra and Columbia backpacks are also popular for students interested in a more outdoorsy, bohemian style.
- Basics that "pop": As students pay particular attention to up-and-coming fashion trends, those same colors, textures and themes are helping items like notebooks, folders, pencil pouches and planners gain appeal. Popular colors include mints, pinks, blues and rose-golds, while geometric patterns are trending, especially on folders. The biggest themes this year include gaming, sharks, dinosaurs, marble, tie-dye, space, rainbows and animals.
- Gender-neutral styles: While some students are planning their looks to capture attention, others are planning to break free from stereotypes and get back to basics. Subsequently, primary colors and pattern-free designs are gaining popularity.
- Positive affirmation: Many of the top folders that students and parents are choosing include positive sayings or inspirational quotes. The most popular folders in customer carts include "Make Today Amazing," "Kindness is Cool," and "Be Strong, Be Brave, Be You."
- Back to lunch: Lunch boxes for kids of elementary school age are going eco-friendly. Reusable insulated lunch boxes, lunch bags and accessories are designed to be leakproof and durable. These products are popular for keeping chilled food cold and are a sustainable way to carry food and snacks.
While self-expression and style are key components of this year's back-to-school shopping, masks, sanitizer and wipes are still essential on many supply lists — especially as the Delta variant continues to spread. Restocking personal safety items isn't a trend, but a necessary step to be fully prepared for returning to class.
Additionally, Meijer is helping teachers tackle their back-to-school shopping lists by expanding its 15% educator discount to include office furniture and kids' apparel to more than 1,500 already discounted items.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer operates 257 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The company is No. 18 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.