Back-to-school shopping is predicted to break records for consumer spending in 2012, and retailers will be staging big back-to-sales, discounts, and special events all summer in order to gain their share of back-to-school shopping revenue.
This is the second part of a roundup of the best 2012 Back-to-School Deals from Wal-Mart, Staples, Costco, and the biggest U.S. retail industry chains and stores. Find websites, links and sales dedicated to the 2012 back-to-school shopping season in this article.
Best 2012 Back-to-School Deals - Internet Shopping and In-Store Back-to-School Sales (continued):
To help convert its shoppers to the new "everyday" pricing strategy, it would be a great idea for jcpenney to provide on-the-spot competitor price comparisons as proof to shoppers that they're getting a good deal without the help of the inflated-price-big-discounting games that they're used to playing with jcpenney and some of its direct competitors. A price comparison feature would only work, of course, if the new everyday jcpenney price structure is actually competitive.
The master of "everyday low prices," Wal-Mart (WMT), is not setting a good example for jcpenney to follow in the back-to-school season, as the world's largest retailer is seemingly abandoning its cheap-prices-are-everything philosophy.
The Wal-Mart College Living cyber department is filled with merchandise that Wal-Mart has branded as "cool college gear," and "High Style for Higher Learning." I'm not sure if college students would proudly announce to their roommates that the "cool" stuff they brought from home is part of the Wal-Mart "high style" collection, but the marketing team can dream.
More importantly, this kind of positioning is a notable departure from the low-price stance that Wal-Mart has steadfastly staked claim to in the global retail landscape. Could it be that Wal-Mart is finally admitting that its lowest-price claims are not only untrue but also ineffective?
Staples (SPLS) is definitely not relying on everyday pricing to get its share of the $4.2 billion that back-to-school shoppers are predicted to spend during the 2012 back-to-school shopping season. Similar to previous years, Staples "extreme" back-to-school sale prices allow Staples back-to-school shoppers to exchange a penny for a pack of pencil erasers, and take some items like ballpoint pens home completely free of charge (with a Staples easy rebate, of course).
If those Staples back-to-school deals aren't good enough for Staples shoppers, they can purchase a Back to School Savings Pass and get an additional 15% discount on in-store purchases through September 15th. That seems like a great loyalty-building idea for back-to-school shoppers, unless they're buying technology, ink, calculators, flash drives, furniture, food or mobile phones, which are excluded from the Savings Pass discount. But what are the odds that Savings Pass holders would want to purchase any of those items for the new school year anyway?
Competitor OfficeMax (OMX) will give its back-to-school shoppers free supplies only with the purchase of a $39.99 backpack. Office Depot's extreme deals are ten times as expensive as Staples, starting at ten cents for an "essential" plastic protractor.
One nice thing about the OfficeMax back-to-school merchandise selection is that it is arranged according to the needs of the end user, which is a very shopper friendly idea. Kindergarten and college moms aren't looking for the same things, so it's great that OfficeMax has presorted its back-to-school merchandise into grade school, middle and high school, college, and teacher categories.
Office Depot's back-to-school merchandise is organized similarly, except that it's only sorted for the kindergarten - 3rd grade students and 4th - 6th grade students. Everything else gets thrown into one big cyber sale bin that Office Depot (OD) customers have to sort and sift through. It's a very strange half effort on Office Depot's part.
Costco (COST) is another retailer demonstrating that it knows its customer and their back-to-school needs very well. Costco's back-to-school "stock up" deals are not just for parents of students, but also for teachers and schools needing to stretch their back-to-school budgets as far as possible.
Walgreens (WAG) is marketing to steal little pieces of business from just about every retailer already mentioned. But in addition to back-to-school backpacks and pencils, Walgreens is also advertising back-to-school vaccinations, using a recommended immunization chart. Considering potential health consequences of vaccinations, it seems like taking medical advice from a retail website might be ill advised (pun intended).
It also seems that peddling vaccinations in the same way that you peddle customized stationery and photo processing does not show much respect for the complexities of the human bodies that Walgreens customers need to remain healthy so that they can continue to shop. I personally would not consider getting medical treatments for myself or my children from a place that literally sells crock pots. But maybe that's just me.
Walgreens' competitors CVS and Rite Aid (RAD) are making no back-to-school references on their websites. It's assumed that this is also a "yet" statement, since both chains have plenty of stuff that is appropriate for a back-to-school promotion.
With six more weeks before most schools are back in session, the most aggressive back-to-school retail action is yet to come. If today's Cyber Monday promotions are any indication, the desperation factor of the largest U.S. retailers will create plenty of reasons for shoppers to decide that some back-to-school shopping is "essential."
More Deals, Discounts, and Coupons from the U.S. Retail Industry:
- Grocery Store and Supermarket Coupons, Deals and Discounts Index
- Best Retail and Restaurant E-Club Freebies and Discounts
- Where to Get Free Stuff on Your Birthday