Strong Retail Sales Predicted for Back-to-School Season

New report from Mastercard anticipates positive momentum as in-person learning expected to return
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
An 'A' for Back-to-School Season?
As kids head back to school, expect a retail sales lift starting in mid-July.

Some schools aren’t even out for summer yet, but food retailers who are planning ahead for back-to-school promotions can be heartened by projections for a robust season. According to a new Mastercard SpendingPlus report from payment company Mastercard, retail sales of back-to-school products are expected to increase 5.5% compared to fall 2020, when in-person classes were largely supplanted by learn-at-home schoolwork.

Mastercard defines the school stock-up season as ranging from July 15 through September 6. During that time period, the company predicts pent-up demand will spur higher sales of school supplies and apparel as more educational institutions welcome students back to the classroom.

“Back to school has always been a prime season for retailers. This year, the broader reopening brings an exciting wave of optimism as children prepare for another school year, and the grown-ups in their lives approach a similar ‘return to office’ scenario,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard. “This back-to-school season will be defined by choice as online sales remain robust, brick and mortar browsing regains momentum and strong promotions help retailers compete for shoppers' wallets.”

In addition to looking ahead to a busy merchandising season, the Mastercard SpendingPlus researchers gauged overall spending trends. In the grocery sector, the report reveals a 4.8% increase in sales from May 2020 to May 2021 and 14.4% growth from May 2019 to May 2021. The pendulum swung a lot broader in department stores, which were up 212% in sales from last year to this year, compared to 4.2% from 2019 to 2021.

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