The return to school is looming for US families, and as many gear up for more remote learning rather than a physical classroom, it’s putting a dent in sales of traditional back-to-school products, according to new research from The NPD Group. Instead of pencils, binders and backpacks, parents are investing in upgraded technology, the report found.
Sales for notebook computers is up 51% in the seven weeks ending on August 8. Parents have also been driving sales increases for monitors (79% increase), keyboards (up 62%), mice (up 43%) and docking stations (up 12%). The rise and sudden dependence on virtual learning platforms has also created a need for devices like USB cameras/webcams (up 116%) and non-gaming PC headsets (up 81%). Families are also looking to give their Wi-Fi connection a boost to support at-home learning with router sales growing 73%.
On the flip side of this rise in tech, sales for school supplies like pencils, pens and spiral notebooks declined 32%, compared to the same period last year.
The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty around going back to the school this year, which has affected consumers’ willingness to shop, NPD found. While the summer lead up to school is typically when sales for products spike, families return-to-classroom strategies may evolve alongside new medical information, flares in infections or changes to school board plans. As a result, the traditional back-to-school season may be elongated as parents will be regularly re-evaluating their needs as things change.
Recent research from social platform Burbio found that more than half (52%) of US elementary and high school students will only attend school virtually this fall, with just a quarter saying they will go to school daily. One in five have opted for a hybrid approach (a few days in school and a few at home), while 4% of districts remained undecided.
For companies looking to ink licensing deals attached to back-to-school products, workbooks, flashcards and reference titles for preschoolers and early elementary students will be especially big this year, according to NPD. As learning becomes more self-directed, families have driven a spike in the sale of educational books. Activity books saw a 458% increase in sales, while non-fiction books about school and education were up 125%. Language arts titles saw a 117% increase and sales for math books jumped 20% as parents looked for resources to help keep their kids on track educationally.