||Back to School? Summer Season for Shopping Is Early This Year
This year, for the back-to-school shopping season, it is, as a sage once said, getting late early out there.
Many retailers and advertisers are moving up the start of their sales and marketing campaigns devoted to children's clothing, stationery, computers and other back-to-school merchandise. In at least one instance, ads that promote buying such items on layaway appeared in mid-June -- when schools in several parts of the country were still in session.
The front-running of the back-to-school shopping season is not unlike how Madison Avenue has for years been advancing the start of the Christmas shopping season. Indeed, even as some retailers begin their back-to-school sales early, they are also sponsoring "Christmas in July" sales.
In both instances, the reason for getting an early start is the same: with an uncertain economy, the goal is to gather ye consumer dollars while ye may, even if it may peeve some tradition-minded shoppers.
"We're not trying to shorten summer," said Mark Snyder, chief marketing officer at Kmart, part of the Sears Holdings Corporation, which moved up its annual ads about buying on layaway to mid-June from around the Fourth of July.
Instead, Mr. Snyder said, it is in response to changes in consumer behavior as "the high price of gas has compressed the frequency of trips" to shop.
"Rather than having to make additional trips," he added, consumers are "doing it early."
The first weekend in July brought newspaper circulars with back-to-school pitches from retailers like Staples, Target and Toys "R" Us. The next weekend, they reprised those themes and were joined by other chains like Best Buy ("Your back-to-school destination").
At the same time, August issues of magazines like All You, Family Circle, Martha Stewart Living and Parents have been arriving on newsstands and in subscribers' mailboxes with back-to-school ads from Lands' End Kids, Target and Wal-Mart, along with brands like Frito-Lay, Kellogg's, Germ-X hand sanitizer ("A back-to-school necessity") and Microsoft (make a new PC "school-ready with Office 2010").
Also last week, the declaration that "Back to school is kicking off at @Macys!" was received by those on Twitter who follow the Macy's division of Macy's Inc.
Marketers and retailers "have some reason to be nervous" and thus are "more proactive in reaching out to shoppers these days," said Frank Badillo, senior economist for the Kantar Retail unit of WPP in Columbus, Ohio.
Consumers, particularly in lower-income households, are "stepping up their efforts to look for deals," Mr. Badillo said, so "to be successful your message needs to be, 'This is what I can do to help you make ends meet in this economy.'"
Entertainment Promotions, which offers discounts through properties like Entertainment Book Membership and entertainment.com, started its back-to-school campaign on June 20, about a month earlier than last year.
"Consumers are worried, and they're stretched," said Dean DeBiase, chairman and chief executive at Entertainment Promotions in Troy, Mich. "They say, 'If I have to spend that money anyway, I might as well snag some deals in the dog days of summer.'"
The company also sells coupon books to schools as fund-raisers to sell to consumers, he added, and activity there "is also much earlier this year."
"It's almost like nothing stopped for summer," Mr. DeBiase said.
At Staples, said Carrie McElwee, a spokeswoman in Framingham, Mass., savings "always is a focus, but today it is more so." Although the back-to-school ads have "about the same timing for us as in previous years," she said, Staples is bringing out new offers for 2011 like a Back to School Savings Pass.
The pass entitles customers to 15 percent off purchases of items like backpacks, calculators and notebooks. It costs $10 and can be used once a day in Staples stores from July 3 through Sept. 17.
Also, students who show school IDs can receive a $100 Visa prepaid card through the Staples Easy Rebate program with the purchase of one of four laptop computers "that were chosen specifically for student needs," Ms. McElwee said.
A spokeswoman for Target in Minneapolis, Jennifer Mooney, said the retailer was "focused on delivering more value than ever" at Target stores and on target.com.
Although the back-to-school merchandise "is available at the same time this year as it was last year," she added, there is a renewed emphasis on savings through coupon offers.
For instance, "new this year," Ms. Mooney said, is a promotion in certain stores called Text to Get Coupon, by which shoppers can receive "an instant mobile coupon on specific items" like General Electric light bulbs.
One retailer is zagging while the others are zigging. J. C. Penney plans to introduce its back-to-school campaign next week, which will be a week later than last year.
"There is still a peak in the middle of August" to back-to-school shopping patterns, said Bill Gentner at Penney in Plano, Tex., who is serving as interim chief marketing officer after the retirement this month of Michael J. Boylson.
The later start is to help "make sure the campaign resonated with our customers," Mr. Gentner said. The ads will present Penney as "a headquarters for style and, at a time when it's so important, value," he added.
There will also be a cause marketing campaign, carrying the theme "Pennies From Heaven," that is to run through Aug. 27. Shoppers will be invited to round up purchases to the nearest dollar, with the additional sums, up to $1 million, being donated by Penney to local after-school programs like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Y.M.C.A. of the U.S.A.
(Source: The New York Times, 07/19/11)
Click here to email to client
Back to Radio Sales Today
Click here to view classified ads in the RAB Job Center.
Getting a Bigger Share of the Political Advertising Pie
How can you grab a bigger piece of the political ad dollar pie, which is expected to generate $4.8 billion in spending for 2012?
By attending this timely webinar, where you'll learn the keys to developing a successful sales strategy in this all-important category for radio. Topics will include an examination of the political landscape in general, an explanation of political advertising (including unit rate structures), and how to sell radio's strengths and those of your particular stations.
Join political experts Anne-Marie Petrie of CBS Radio and Patrick McGee of Katz Radio Group, along with RAB's Sheila Kirby for this important presentation on Tuesday, July 26, at 3 PM (Central). For registration information, click here.
Radio Mercury Awards Entry Deadline is Friday
Tomorrow will be the final day for submitting entries to the 2011 Radio Mercury Awards.
With over $130,000 in prizes, the Radio Mercury Awards represent the only creative competition devoted exclusively to radio. Agencies, production companies, radio stations, schools and universities are all eligible to enter.
For information on how to submit your commercials and campaigns, follow this link.