Viewpoints

Retailers From Wal-Mart to Wegmans Mastering Lessons of Back to School

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It’s anything but old school.

Retailers have updated their approaches to the back-to-school season with innovative offerings for everyone from parents of grade school kids to college freshmen.

With signs this will be an improved retail selling period compared to last year, supermarkets and other food-oriented retailers are responding to the latest consumer trends with fine-tuned efforts, including these:

• Nutrition Focus: There is nothing more topical than battling childhood obesity, and many retailers are tying into this, including a growing number offering nutritious meal programs for kids. Taking a slightly different tack, meanwhile, is Harris Teeter, which just unveiled an initiative to donate salad bars to at least 10 community schools. This involves a wide-ranging partnership with suppliers tied to the national “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools” effort. The program aims to help support Michele Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. It’s good for consumers and certainly aligns the retailer and its partners with a worthwhile campaign.

• Digital Savvy: Back-to-school has increasingly become both a clicks and mortar affair. Target Corp. twinned a school-focused “Bonus Black Friday” sale with a week-long “Summer Cyber Week” sale, while offering store shopping hours for college freshmen. Wal-Mart Stores, not to be outdone, has unveiled a back-to-school shopping website that enables online purchasing and includes teachers’ supply lists that are uploaded by schools.

Wal-Mart News Page: Updates and Profiles

• Price Leadership: Could Wal-Mart become the “valedictorian” of this year’s back-to-school season? That’s the prediction of financial analyst Deborah Weinswig of Citi Research, who cited the retailer’s “aggressive pricing and improved assortment,” which apparently includes efforts to compete with rock-bottom dollar store pricing. While it’s not news that Wal-Mart is going for lower prices, this sounds like a strategy on steroids to address the still challenging economy.

• Cause Advocacy: Wegmans is associating its back-to-school season with U.S.-made products in an effort to do its part to battle high unemployment. The retailer is offering some 80 domestically produced school supply items this season as it steps up last year’s efforts on this unique initiative.

The strategies outlined here tie into some traditional areas, from nutrition to price. However, the approaches go well beyond a traditional season of pile it high and promote it out the door.

Retailers are showing themselves to be quick studies when it comes to analyzing customers and adapting for changing needs.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Aug 8, 2012

Good article. I work for McGladrey and there's a white paper on Retail on the website ( http://bit.ly/JDHmUU ) that describes current trends in US retail sector with insights from industry experts.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

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Carol Angrisani is an associate editor at Supermarket News. Along with covering the packaged goods beat, she also manages SN’s annual private-label and ethnic marketing supplements. Carol...
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