Suddenly, It's Back-to-School Season

Amazon, Walmart and Target kick off this year’s promotions
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Walmart BTS
Walmart shared that it is selling classroom supplies and backpacks at last year’s prices.

Even as grocers are still touting summertime staples like s’more fixings and paper goods for outdoor celebrations, school supplies are creeping into displays and shopper mindsets. Several retailers announced their back-to-school plans fresh on the heels of the Fourth of July.

It’s shaping up to mirror other seasonal promotions in 2023, as consumers balance cost consciousness and a willingness to spend on items deemed important to them and their families. According to a new survey from marketing platform Optimove, more than 70% of consumers will prioritize price and quality during this school shopping season. Still, about half (48%) reported that they intend to spend more on supplies this year.

[Read more: "Shoppers Heading to Deal Destinations: Report"]

Target is one retailer out of the gate early with school season news. The company announced that it is expanding its Teacher Appreciation Event that provides educators with a onetime 20% discount on their entire shopping trip. Target is also bringing back a 20%-off deal for verified college students through the Target Circle loyalty program, which will run from July 16 - Aug. 26. In addition, Target stores in states with tax holiday events will not charge sales tax during specific weekends. To streamline stock-up trips, Target is again offering School List Assist and College Registry checklist tools.

As Amazon gears up for its Prime Day event on July 11-12, the e-commerce company is emphasizing several back-to-school deals. Prime members can score savings on items like kids’ uniform styles, Crayola products, mattresses and beds, lunch boxes, shoes, bedding and a range of electronics for students, including select laptops.

Walmart is also sharpening its proverbial pencil for back-to-school season, announcing that customers can shop this year’s school supplies for 2022 prices. The retailer reported that shoppers can buy the 14 most popular items on school supply lists for $12.94, with deals like select composition notebooks for $0.50 each and pencil boxes for under $1.

New this year is a Classroom Registry feature created to help teachers reduce their own out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies. Walmart is continuing to provide other digital tools, like school supply lists curated by school districts and teachers and Spark Good Registry and Roundup accounts that allow for tax-deductible donations to be given to public and private schools.

As part of its commitment to creating an inclusive shopping environment, Walmart is offering sensory-friendly hours in most stores for customers with sensory disabilities on Saturdays in July and August, between 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on The PG 100, while Minneapolis-based Target Corp. is No. 6. PG also named all three companies as Retailers of the Century.

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