Since the Back-to-School season is the second biggest shopping event of 2012, a frequently asked question from U.S. shoppers is “Where can I find the best Back-to-School sales?”
Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Costco, and almost all of the largest U.S. retail chains are staging back-to-school sales throughout July, August, and September, and will be offering a variety of different deals and specials that they will label “back-to-school,” whether the merchandise being promoted is related to school or not.
What follows is a round-up of the Back-to-School deals and sales promotions being staged throughout the 2012 Summer months along with links to Back-to-School webpages dedicated to Back-to-School Internet shopping and in-store specials. This Back-to-School Deals Roundup will be updated as new Back-to-School Deals and Specials are offered by U.S. retailers.
Best 2012 Back-to-School Deals - Internet Shopping and In-Store Back-to-School Sales:
Apple (AAPL) got the back-to-school jump on the estimated $9.6 billion that the NRF Back-To-School Spending Survey predicts will be spent on computers and electronics by starting its back-to-school sale even before the last school year was completed. Not keen on discounting its prices, Apple's back-to-school offer is really a bonus $100 gift card for computer purchasers, and a $50 gift card for those who buy a new iPad directly from Apple by September 21st. Apple customers with a valid student ID will get a rare and coveted discount of 5-8% on Apple hardware.
The Dell back-to-school offer to compete with Apple is a $200 gift card or a free Xbox 360 4GB (another "essential" for 2012 educational success) with the purchase of eligible computers from the Dell University collection on the Dell.com website. Best Buy (BBY) is not heavily promoting back-to-school deals. I guess that is a "yet" statement, since Best Buy is most certainly interested in grabbing some back-to-school revenue to boost its turnaround effort.
One interesting feature of the back-to-college web page that Best Buy did publish is the Geek Squad how-to videos. These videos are very much in alignment with Best Buy's desire to connect with its customers in a meaningful and helpful way. But it's difficult to imagine what benefit Best Buy thinks it is getting by hosting its own videos compared to the SEO placement and viral potential it loses by not using the YouTube platform. The illusion of control is a high price to pay for web presence.
Another good marketing idea that should help power its turnaround in the long-term is Best Buy's ".edu deals." When college students register on the website with their school-provided .edu e-mail address, Best Buy promises to send them special .edu-only offers and deals. This is a really smart way to gain access to young people who are moving into the independent purchase decision phase of their lives in order to start building a relationship with them.
Lowe's (LOW) is also focusing on the back-to-college niche of back-to-school spending with its Back to Cool college living space deals. Similar to Best Buy, Lowe's has created helpful how-to content to provide tips and engage the DIY imagination of college students and their handy parents. Scroll down to the bottom of the Lowe's back-to-college deals page to find dorm room ideas and typical collegiate living spaces improvements.
By contrast, there is no reference to back-to-anything on the Home Depot (HD) website. This may be an example of why Home Depot has been falling in the U.S. Top 100 Retailers ranks and Lowe's has been holding steady for the past five years.
The Macy's College Lifestyle website hub is well-suited to the college age shopper. It includes a wish list, a checklist, design inspiration photos which are pinnable to Pinterest, and a sweepstakes which can be entered with either e-mail or text. Macy's (M) doesn't do as well as Best Buy or Lowe's, however, with its "Dorm Room Tips," which are really just "Buy This Because We Said So" marketing messages.
There's a Dorm Shop on the jcpenney.com (JCP) website as well, but it's much less sophisticated than the Macy's and Target website. Basically it's just links to "everyday" priced merchandise for outfitting dorm rooms and apartments. The home page of the website features jcpenney's selection of back-to-school clothing for children, which also all seems to be "everyday" priced.