The Retail Race is On for Back-to-School

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone thinks, “I can’t believe it’s already August” and “Thank goodness the kids will soon be out of the house!” With the school year beginning as soon as late August, the fall semester and its associated costs are looming. Be it pencils, backpacks, jeans, or dorm supplies, retailers compete to get to the head of the class in drawing back-to-school shoppers.

This year, retailers have started spending more earlier in the summer, investing a greater amount in ads that make mention of “back-to-school” than they did last year during the same period. Big differences were seen in the week of July 14 2014, when back-to-school spend for this week was more than double last year’s spending levels during the same period ($23 million vs. $11 million). With that said, 2014 YTD back-to-school retail spending levels are trailing 3% behind last year’s during the same period; retailers’ back-to-school spend peaked at $72 million in the last week of July 2013, compared to $54 million spent in the same calendar week of 2014. But with the bulk of this seasonal spend typically occuring in July and August, the back-to-school race is still on, with the leaders to be determined in the month to come.

Back to School Ad Spend

Target, JCPenney compete for head of the class

In 2013, discount department stores like Target and Kmart led the retail pack in back-to-school ads at $150 million, followed by department stores like JCPenney and Kohl’s at $111 million, office supply stores, electronic stores, and apparel stores. In the first nine weeks of 2014 back-to-school ads, discount department stores have again spent the most on back-to-school ad messaging, followed by department stores, apparel stores, and electronic stores and office supply stores.

Back to School Ad Spend

Discount department store Target and department store JCPenney and are going head-to-head this year with $17 and $16 million so far respectively in back-to-school creative (last year JCPenney invested a total of $113 million and Target $68 million in back-to-school ads). And apparel stores have already outspent last year’s back-to-school investments thanks to campaigns by Old Navy and Payless ShoeSource, in part making up for sharply lower spend by department stores. But we’re merely at the start of the season; at this point last year a little over half of Back-to-school ads had run (as evidenced by the bulk of spend after August 5, 2013 in the above chart), so the months of August and September will be telling.

About Kantar Media

Kantar Media provides critical information that helps our clients make better decisions about communications. We enable the world’s leading brands, publishers, agencies and industry bodies to navigate and succeed in a rapidly evolving media industry. Our services and data include analysis of paid media opportunities; counsel on brand reputation, corporate management and consumer engagement through owned media; and evaluating consumers’ reactions in earned media. As the global house of expertise in media and marketing information, Kantar Media provides clients with a broad range of insights, from audience research, competitive intelligence, vital consumer behavior and digital insights, marketing and advertising effectiveness to social media monitoring. Our experts currently work with 22,000 companies tracking over 4 million brands in 50 countries.

Need to Know More?

Our analysis of Back-to-School ad trends is based on our AdScope monitoring of the multimedia marketplace. Our scope extends beyond seasonal events, so if you would like to know more about how a particular category, brand, or messaging is faring across the entire media mix, we can provide actionable insights based on our broad range of solutions.

Please contact:
Andrew Hogan
Senior Account Service Representative, AdScope
Kantar Media Ad Intelligence
T: 212-991-6072

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