Summertime rules: analysing Europe’s back-to-school footfall trends

As the school year ends each summer, a key sales opportunity begins for European retailers.

Families that shop for clothes, shoes, stationery and accessories that their children will need when the next term begins are a valuable revenue driver – and the spend taking place in 2017 is likely to end up even higher than last year, says Kantar.

Yet many retailers fail to make the most of the back-to-school sales potential. Shopper traffic during school holidays can be erratic, making the planning of inventory and staffing levels a challenge.

To help you plan your summer retail strategy more effectively, we’ve identified three key back-to-school strategies based on an analysis of shopper footfall from several European countries in 2014-16.

Be prepared for the stock-up shopper

Whether they’re hunting down the best prices, or trying to remove one more task from their summer to-do list, many parents are eager to stock up on everything they need as soon as the holiday starts.

Italy, for example, tends to see its strongest shopper footfall in the second week of July, while in Spain, shopper traffic has been highest during the first week of the holidays – at the end of June – for three years running.

Wherever you operate, it’s important to anticipate early demand, and launch promotions soon enough to capitalise on this organised buyer demographic.

Don’t forget the panic buyer

By far the biggest European back-to-school shopping trend is a spike in traffic in the last week of the holidays – typically the last week of August or the first week of September – so it’s imperative to seize every opportunity during this window.

For the past three years, shopper traffic in Germany has been strongest in the first week of September – in 2016 retailers also enjoyed good footfall growth (+8.4%) in the last week of June, when the holidays in Saxony, Bremen and Thuringia commenced.

Retailers in France and the UK consistently experienced a similar late-holiday peak, as they did in Poland, where YOY shopper traffic grew by +1.48% in 2015, and +3.27% in 2016, and retail sales hit a two-year high last year.

Retailers might expect a surge in business from families that have left their back-to-school shopping until the last minute, but they should also be mindful of parents making last-minute purchases during the first week of the new term. In Spain, for example, shopper traffic rose +5.57% during that week last year.

Deliver consistent customer service around the peaks

Although most countries experience noticeable peaks and troughs in shopper footfall, there will always be some consumers who take a steadier approach throughout the summer break.

In Portugal, where shopper footfall during the summer holiday season grew by +0.49% in 2016, the strongest traffic may have occurred in late July/early August, but there are no concrete patterns.

Portugal’s activity reminds us that retailers need to uphold the quality of their customer experience delivery throughout the summer, while being ready to meet unexpected demand.

Understand shopper traffic trends to win back-to-school business

By developing a clearer understanding of how shopper traffic levels are likely to unfold over the summer, you’ll be in a better position to anticipate demand, and more effectively plan your marketing strategy, inventory and staff schedule to deliver excellent service during peak periods.

The back-to-school season is a valuable opportunity for retailers, so it’s crucial to serve customers as effectively as possible during this period in order to drive revenues and consumer loyalty.

Learn how the ShopperTrak Analytics Suite can give you a detailed understanding of consumer shopping patterns, so that you can meet the demands of back-to-school shoppers before, during and after each season.

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