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Making the most of back-to-school sales

Five tips for better back-to-school merchandising

No more teachers, no more books. Summer is here and even though September is still off in the distance, it's never too early to start thinking about back-to-school marketing and merchandising.

Here are some tips and tricks to help grocers ace back-to-school sales:

Connect online

Use all points of access possible to connect with parents during the back-to-school season, including through your website, social media and direct emails to offer promotions, contests and other reasons to return to the store. “These are digitally savvy parents, so digital coupons, loyalty programs and mobile rebates all make sense,” says Nourish’s Jo-Ann McArthur. “For many of them their portal to online grocery shopping was diapers, because they’re big and bulky.” McArthur suggests offering products online to be delivered on a regular basis—for instance, healthy bento box-style lunches—and positioning them as a back-to-school solution. “It may be an opportunity for grocers to further penetrate online grocery shopping, and it’s a good way to set yourself up as a back-to-school solutions provider,” she says.

Work with manufacturers

Back-to-school season also presents a huge opportunity for food and beverage operators, meaning they will be eager to offer merchandising help through signage, or to do product demonstrations and giveaways. “Sampling and demoing is key for us,” says Healthy Crunch’s Julie Bednarski. “Once we get a consumer to taste our product, we have a repeat customer.” Sampling can also translate to instant sales of back-to-school snacks, says Summerhill’s Christy McMullen, “because if kids sample a product and like it, you pretty much have a guaranteed sale.”

Make it fun and functional

Make back-to-school season fun with large food and beverage displays at the front of the store to catch the eye of kids and parents. “We go full force with our back-to-school merchandising,” says Calgary Co-op’s Adam Tully. “We have a school bus in there, we build a school out of condiments, that sort of thing.” Remember to ensure your product mix offers parents lunchbox solutions that simplify the back-to-school routine, and bring as many of the essentials they’re looking for into one location. It’s also an opportunity to provide value-added signage with info such as shopping tips and easy-to-follow nutritional guidelines.

Link to local 

Millennial parents put a premium on local. Linking with family-friendly events, associations, charities and schools in your neighbourhood throughout the year can attract new customers, while building brand awareness and goodwill in the community.

Cross-merchandising is key

Find ways to bring all four walls of the store together by cross-merchandising food and beverages with other back-to-school products. Because of the popularity of pick-and-pack type lunches, as well as zero-waste packaging policies at many schools, consider adding resealable containers, lunch boxes and Thermoses to your displays. Cross-promoting different food departments, such as fresh or deli, can present an opportunity to “help parents navigate through the store” on their search for kid-friendly options, says Ipsos’s Kathy Perrotta. 

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’June/July issue.
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