Retailers lure early back-to-school shoppers

Wal-Mart will release sales numbers this week as it hopes to attrack back-to-school shoppers.

It's a big week for retailers, with Wal-Mart and Kohl's releasing earnings reports tomorrow. Macy's reports this morning. The figures will give a glimpse at the strength of the back-to-school shopping season.

Just like during the holiday-shopping season, retailers want to coax people to shop early, but, especially after the recession, many consumers wait until the last minute. So many stores have borrowed a strategy from the holidays.

“We started to see commercials, promotions, fliers coming out before Fourth of July,” says Matthew Ong, a retail analyst with NerdWallet.com. “In some ways the back-to-school creep is not totally foreign, because we saw the same creep happen with Black Friday last year into Thanksgiving.”

Paul Swinand, an equity analyst with Morningstar says he expects this year’s back-to-school season to be better than in the last few years, citing what’s called the omnichannel approach.

People shopping online, or on tablet, or on smartphone and being offered deals that maybe aren’t in the store, but maybe are a permutation of the inventory that they have in the store,” he says.

Swinand says these online strategies are starting to smooth out the choppiness of post-recession buying habits. 

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I found this story interesting, but think it missed a potential reason why stores could be moving their back-to-school campaigns earlier into the summer: balanced calendar. The current trend is for school districts around the country to trim weeks off of the summer vacation and lengthen the fall, winter and spring breaks. The first day of school this year in our school district was July 30, so having back-to-school sales just a few weeks before that does not unreasonable. In fact, I feel that many of the sales have come to late. I have been noticing an increase in back-to-school ads over the past week or two, but my kids are in their third week so we needed all of the sales a month ago.

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