Back to School 2018: Are You Ready?

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Back to school 2018


Back-to-school is booming. If you’ve been trying to sell school stationery all year and you have nothing to show for it, you’d better get on board – quickly. Here are a few things you should know about Back to School 2018, including forecasts, sought-after products, and sale boosting tips.



What’s wireless, college-ruled, and with a one-track mind? A single-subject wireless notebook. Amazon has plenty of those, and people buy them here even if they have cheaper alternatives. So, why not sell yours on Amazon?


Back to School is Big Business

Here are some forecasts for 2018 from the National Center for Education Statistics, as seen here:

  • enrollment in PK-12 grades is projected to be just under 60 million;
  • 20.6 million new students will be enrolling this school year.

What do they all have in common? They all need school gear.

How much gear? The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts an $82.8 billion total spend this back-to-class season, mostly from college shoppers. So, plenty.
What type of gear? School shoppers will mainly buy clothes in-store. College goers will spend most on electronics online.
How much will they spend? The average family is expected to spend $685 on school supplies. Wait, there’s more! The average college spend per family will be closer to four figures.

This NRF back-to-school research video sums it up nicely. For a more detailed breakdown of research results, take a look at this SlideShare presentation:

Back-to-Class 2018: Top Trends for Back to School and College Shopping
(NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics,

1. Online retailers need to focus on college supplies.
2. Back-to-class is the second most lucrative sales event in the USA.


Back to School is a Big Deal to Amazon

Where does Amazon fit into all this? According to this NRF report…:

  • 79% of back-to-school shoppers planned to do their scouting on Prime Day
  • roughly half of back-to-class shoppers planned to only start buying their supplies 3-4 weeks before school starts anyway
  • last-minute shoppers – people willing to pay more for faster delivery – still make up a good chunk.

Amazon’s last back to school campaign was pretty successful. One Click Retail estimates that:

  • sales in office supplies, backpacks, and apparel were one-third higher on BTS 2017 than 2016;
  • writing and accessory sales were 157% higher on BTS peak weeks than the Q2 weekly average;
  • sales in printers and office organization products topped $100 million each;
  • printer paper saw a 55% year-on-year increase in sales.

Here are some of the reasons Back to School 2018 promises to be even better:

  • many Amazon Books branches and Amazon Pop-Ups sell back-to-school items now;
  • launched a Back to School K-12 store;
  • there’s also an Off to College page for US shoppers (note the meta title mix-up on Google);
  • Amazon UK launched the Off to University Stationery page (ahem…blank);
  • also on Amazon UK is the Off to Uni Essentials page (with absolute student life-savers , such as a Nicolas Cage cardboard cutout – well played).

Joking aside, you should make the most of this sales season. So, here’s what you need to do:


Order with Black Friday in Mind

There’s nothing worse than running out of stock in peak season and letting your competition pick up the slack. So, consider ordering a few more units than you normally would. If they don’t sell, you can simply dispose of any excess inventory on Black Friday or over the winter break.

For FBA items, you’ll need a few days’ head start for shipments to be processed by fulfillment centers. If last year’s holiday shipment calendar is anything to go by, then you have three months to order, check, store, list, and ship your products off to Amazon in time for Black Friday.

Note: Check FBA storage fees and limits first.


Focus on Repeat Customers

You need to reach out to repeat customers before the winter break, because steady sales drive up organic search traffic. One way to draw loyal buyers is to set up promotions, vouchers, or other incentives for high-quality consumables (i.e. printer paper and laminating pouches).

Another way to boost repeat purchases is to put some of your excess stock to good use. Send whatever you can spare to loyal customers, mentioning that it’s complimentary.

Word of mouth is a sure-fire way to reach out to the kind of customers who keep coming back. Consider shipping off some units to social media influencers and reputable bloggers to raise your profile.


Niche, Creative, and Specialty Markets

What do cocktail botanicals, handmade lamps, and vintage board games have in common? People are more likely to buy them at sale, sometimes on impulse. “Customers who bought this…” – click. With hefty shopping lists, hours to spend bargain hunting, and hundreds of promotions to go over, there’s no surprise.

But if you sell more conventional products, don’t worry. Look for related items, like pencil sharpeners for your pencils. These tend to be complementary products,. So, if you lower the price of your pencils, people would spend more on another seller’s pencil sharpener. To counteract this effect, consider bundles.

If you’re out of ideas, pick up a teen magazine. You’re bound to see a popular back-to-class items there. Who’s to say you don’t have something that goes with it?

That’s it for now, but please follow our blog for more on pricing, sales tactics, Amazon news, and SellerEngine Products and Services. Also, we’d love to hear what you’d like us to write about in the weeks to come, so please feel free to get in touch.



Melanie takes an active interest in all things Amazon. She keeps an eye on the latest developments and keeps Amazon sellers up to speed.


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