5 steps to planning the back-to-school season

Scarcely are the first snowdrops in bloom than the back-to-school season is ready to kick off. It begins in spring – the peak season for sales of school bags – and for pupils and students it carries on until after the summer holidays and into the autumn. Mere routine, that’s what specialist retailers for paper, office and stationery products think. But this is precisely the right time to check the effectiveness of routine procedures and to think about setting some new accents. There are many approaches you could take: the target group, the product range and additional assortments, partnerships, in-store campaigns as well as online measures on social media. 

All target groups in view – and one in particular focus

Pupils, parents and students are the core target group of the back-to-school business. But who else is there? Grandparents and other relatives. Why not also think of the teachers? They need a lot of school supplies and have the potential to be or become good customers. Little acknowledgements reinforce customer loyalty. All it takes is a boost of energy consisting of a power bar and an organic energy drink or a free cup of coffee to enjoy a swinging start to the new school year.

However, the success of customer loyalty measures and marketing promotions with an associated social media campaign stands or falls with a clear target-group focus. Each social media channel targets a specific group of people with very specific information or entertainment needs. That is why, before developing any marketing idea for the school season, you need to ask who the campaign is intended to reach and how retailers can actually reach this target group.

Everything for school and studies – plus additional articles to your assortment

Stationery retailers know what goes down well in the school season and when. But what other ideas come to mind when you ponder which products or services will be of benefit to pupils, parents or students? The trends of the season, current events and other suppliers also generate new ideas, because what seems useful to customers is what generates the most sales. This applies to products as well as services. At the top of the hit list is a packing service based on your wish list for school. 

Forging partnerships – the wish for win-win opportunities

Useful services can also be offered in conjunction with other retailers and service providers in town. The starting point is the matter of what customers need and what they want around the time school starts. When partners come into play, the next question is what the stationery retailer and what a potential partner both expect from any cooperation. After all, both partners will always judge the amount of effort they invested in coordinating the partnership, the amount of working time and materials by the response achieved. If both partners see an advantage in cooperating, the topics taken up offer a framework for placing additional assortments or for promotions throughout the school season. 

Promotions around the school season – a collection of ideas

The back-to-school season extends over several months, giving retailers enough time to plan and carry out various promotions. The following promotions can be done on your own or with cooperation partners around the start of the school season (including ideas for decorations or additional assortments):

  • Photo studio: display a joint flyer with a discount for a photo shoot and shopping for school supplies (decorating tip: set up props from the photo studio as a "My first day at school" backdrop in the shop)
  • Organic specialist shop: recipe booklet for "The perfect organic break box" (sandwich box, drinking bottle, drinking bottle holder, warming containers)
  • Road safety organisation: safe way to school (reflectors, warning colour accessories, cycling accessories, colouring books for children, traffic games, lollipop for school crossing guards)
  • Bicycle dealer: voucher for bicycle safety check (bicycle accessories)
  • Ergotherapist: ergonomics advice with a school bag training course or 'writing school' to try out fountain pens

All campaigns generate, at the same time, content for social media channels. This is of particular interest when you cooperate with partners who have completely different social media followers online. Posts that both partners publish on their social networks lead to potential new customer contacts. 

Reach more buyers with online campaigns

TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat... you name it. The popularity of social networks is growing rapidly, offering retailers ever more chances to get in touch with their customers via social media. Those who want to increase advertising efficiency can combine outdoor advertising, newspaper ads or POS campaigns with online promotions and announcements in the newsletter if an e-mail distribution list is available. Collaborating with influencers or bloggers adds a personal touch to an online strategy. The following topics can be addressed in social media posts or online campaigns. 

My first day at school – celebrating the start of a new chapter in life

  • "My first day at school" photo competition
  • Blog posts with a countdown to the 1st day of school in which preschool tasks, craft kits and colouring suggestions are offered as activity ideas for impatient first graders
  • My way to school: tips for parents on how to get to school

Day-to-day school life

  • Tips for a successful start to the school year 
  • Back-to-school preparation list or shopping list
  • Schoolyard games for the school bag: a daily schoolyard hit show for 1 week: trading cards, jumping elastic rope, pavement chalk, etc.

The strong seasonal nature of the back-to-school season offers a variety of sales opportunities. By planning partnerships, promotions, buying impulses and web campaigns in good time, retailers can exploit their sales opportunities.

Tips for retailers: 5 steps for planning the back-to-school season


  1. Define and focus on target groups
  2. Put together a product range and additional assortments
  3. Forge partnerships
  4. Plan in-store promotions
  5. Set up advertising & online campaigns

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