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Summer Focus Switches to Back-to-School Shopping

Target and other retailers announce deals as supply season commences
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Target clothing
Target is offering savings on back-to-school clothing, classroom supplies and other items as the clock starts ticking on a new academic year.

With the Fourth of July in the rearview mirror, many shoppers are turning their attention to back-to-school promotions. Indeed, even as students are enjoying the height of their summer break, parents, caregivers and educators are stocking up on supplies and necessities.

[RELATED: Major Retailers Go Deep on Summer Deals]

Target was out of the gate right after Independence Day, announcing details of its back-to-college and back-to-school campaign. New this year for the mass merchant is a list of 20 school supplies that ring up for less than $20, including Mondo Llama 12-pack colored pencils, up&up liquid glue, notebooks and more. Target is also touting $5 backpacks and a host of college essentials priced under $20, including dorm-ready twin XL sheet sets.

"Getting ready for a new school year is a busy time for teachers, students and parents, so Target's focused on making it affordable and easy for everyone," said Rick Gomez, Target’s EVP and chief commercial officer. "With our new monthly subscription options for Target Circle 360, unbeatable deals like 20 must-have school supplies for under $20 total, a $5 backpack, and an app feature that makes shopping for school supplies easier than ever, Target's taking the stress out of the season so families can focus on the excitement of a new school year."

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To Gomez’s point, verified students can join the Target Circle 360 subscription program for $4.99 a month starting July 14. Teachers can also take advantage of a limited-time offer of an annual Target Circle subscription for $49, which includes same-day delivery. Additionally, both college students and teachers who are Target Circle members can enjoy an “appreciation discount” of 20%; the offer extends through Aug. 24 for educators and September 28 for students.

In addition to helping customers save money, Target is making school supply errands easier. The retailer added a School List Assistant feature to the Target app, which can help people find a child’s class supply list, add items to their online cart and choose a delivery method.

Meanwhile, school supplies are part of major savings events offered by online retailers this month. Walmart’s Deal Days, running July 8-11, includes several back-to-school supplies, apparel items and uniforms, ranging from a foldable lap desk priced at $17.99 to a Crayola bulk supply set for $35, down from the SRP of $49.97. Amazon’s upcoming Prime Day event also features sales on popular products for the season, with lower prices on backpacks, pencil cases, lunch boxes and laptop computers. 

The early- and mid-July promotions reflect shopper interest in buying sooner to get what their students and classrooms need at the most competitive price points. A new survey from real estate and investment management company JLL shows that parents intend to spend 21.8% more on back-to-school shopping in 2024 and many will be buying earlier this time around. 

JLL’s research also indicates that although many people are scoring online savings, they like going inside stores, too. An overwhelming 90% of respondents in JLL’s survey said that they will interact in some way with physical stores for back-to-school shopping.

Breaking down those visits a bit, parents of students in elementary school are considerably more likely to shop at three or fewer stores, while parents with college students will venture to four or more retailers. 

Minneapolis-based Target Corp. is No. 7 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2024 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, with nearly 2,000 locations. Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on The PG 100 and Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart is No. 1. All three were included on PG’s Retailers of the Century list.

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