Would You Go Back-to-School Shopping Right Now?

Staples Back to School

Are stores trying to drive shoppers crazy?  That’s what we wonder when we hear the news that retailers like Kmart and Staples have already begun their back-to-school campaigns.  Aren’t the kids still getting over their first sunburns of the summer?

Apparently, the seemingly early promotions have little to do with kids’ summer sunburn schedule.  Stores and marketers have moved up their back-to-school deals as a way to emphasize value — Kmart, for example, typically runs ads around July 4th that encourage buying on layaway.  This year, the company ran them in the middle of June (when school was still in session).  Best Buy and Toys “R” Us also both ran newspaper circular ads highlighting back-to-school specials during the second weekend in July.

Meanwhile, other retailers are combining the jump start with new deals initiatives.  Staples is offering a $10 “Back to School Savings Pass,” which entitles holders to flat 15% discounts on relevant supplies.  Though the card is valid through mid-September, the kick-off date for its use was notably early — shoppers could use it beginning July 3.  And though Target says its back-to-school items are not arriving any earlier, they’re likewise going above and beyond to emphasize savings, with a new mobile discount deal.  In-store customers can use a new program called “Text to Get Coupon” in order to receive instant promotions on a variety of items.

So, will all these early deals convert to more sales?  Though the campaigns are already out in force, we’ll probably still have to wait until a more normal time — say, mid-September, after school has actually begun — to see how they work out.  After all, even if Christmas comes earlier every year, that doesn’t automatically spell success for the retailers moving it up.

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