Back-to-School 2018: Re­tail Sce­nario, Fash­ion Trends & Con­sumer Spend­ing


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“Ev­ery 20 years fash­ion comes back… You stay away from some­thing long enough and you crave it.” – Vanessa Valiente, per­sonal stylist and the cre­ator of fash­ion blog V-Style Spend­ing is ex­pected to reach US $ 82.8 bil­lion in the US alone this year, with house­holds plan­ning to spend more than dou­ble in-store com­pared to on­line. School uni­forms are a grow­ing mar­ket and an in­creas­ing num­ber of re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Ama­zon, Tar­get and Wal­mart are fea­tur­ing such as­sort­ments.

Apart from bid­ding adieu to lazy va­ca­tion days and the peak of Sum­mer, what de­fines the month of Au­gust is a huge mar­ket au­di­ence of par­ents and their kids, ea­gerly look­ing to­wards the on­set of yet another term… and scout­ing stores – both on­line and off­line – to make for the per­fect Back-to-School wardrobe.

Back-to-School and Back-to-Col­lege are mas­sive op­por­tu­nity ar­eas in the re­tailscape wherein re­tail­ers and brands can ex­pect to ob­serve prodi­gious sales by ap­ply­ing their trend ex­per­tise. It is the busiest shop­ping sea­son fol­lowed closely by the Win­ter hol­i­days, and can con­tribute a third of prof­its for re­tail­ers. It is im­per­a­tive to men­tion here that,

BTS con­sumers spend more dur­ing this sea­son than the com­bined spend wit­nessed on Mother’s Day, Fa­ther’s Day and Valen­tine’s Day.

Spend­ing is ex­pected to reach US $ 82.8 bil­lion in the US alone this year, with house­holds plan­ning to spend more than dou­ble in-store as com­pared to on­line. The claims for av­er­age spend this year varies from source to source, in­clud­ing Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, which states the av­er­age house­hold spend to be US $ 942; and Deloitte, which fore­casts it to be US $ 685 on ev­ery­thing from clothes, to elec­tron­ics, to school sup­plies to dorm fur­nish­ings.


The ’90s are back – big re­tail­ers, such as Ur­ban Out­fit­ters Inc, Amer­i­can Ea­gle Out­fit­ters Inc, etc. are bet­ting on nos­tal­gic ref­er­ences and fill­ing stores with fanny packs, chunky-soled sneak­ers and high-waisted ‘mom jeans’ to tap onto Back-to-School sales.

With Back-to-School spend­ing ex­pected to rise this year, owing to a strong econ­omy and higher con­sumer con­fi­dence, re­tail­ers are hop­ing that the res­ur­rec­tion of ’90s fash­ion will fuel a re­cov­ery in the sec­tor af­ter fac­ing a pe­riod of de­clin­ing sales through sev­eral quar­ters.

It is worth men­tion­ing here that es­tab­lished ath­letic brands such as Nike and Adi­das have boomed with the pop­u­lar­ity of this trend – their lo­gos alone pos­ing as fash­ion state­ments. Spe­cial­ists are up, like Nike which is up by 22%, Joules which is up by 49% and Pe­tit Bateau which is up by 123% from BTS 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to Edited, footwear is rais­ing its Back-to-School pro­file, with 17% more prod­uct in stock and prices up by 14% on shoes and 19% on sneak­ers. The es­ti­mated per-shop­per spend is up 7% year-on-year, as per data shared by Pros­per In­sights & An­a­lyt­ics.

Sneak­ers have emerged as a pop­u­lar item over the past few years and the trend shows no sign of di­min­ish­ing owing to the sus­tained pop­u­lar­ity of ath­leisure and the grow­ing hype sur­round­ing streetwear trends.

School uni­forms are also a grow­ing mar­ket as more and more schools re­quire stu­dents to wear uni­forms. In lieu of this, an in­creas­ing num­ber of re­tail­ers are look­ing at this as­sort­ment more care­fully in­clud­ing Ama­zon, Wal­mart and Tar­get. Ac­cord­ing to Pros­per, the per­cent­age of chil­dren wear­ing uni­forms to school is up 1.1 per­cent­age points over last year’s 26.1%. This marks the sec­ond-high­est re­port in the sur­vey’s his­tory (2015 was the high­est, at 28.1%).


The suc­cess of the BTS and BTC cat­e­gories is based on pleas­ing not one, but two con­sumers

– stu­dents, who seek on-trend styles to re­flect their in­di­vid­u­al­ity and gain ac­cep­tance among their peers, and their par­ents, who search for af­ford­able prices. These two con­sumers are on ei­ther end of the spec­trum and pleas­ing both at the same time re­quires a con­sid­er­able amount of re­search and un­der­stand­ing of mar­ket dy­nam­ics.

The present day BTS and BTC con­sumer is an aware shop­per look­ing ev­ery­where from depart­ment stores to spe­cialty stores and on­line e-shops to find the best deal that matches his/her pref­er­ences.

In terms of On­line vs. Off­line, 57% of BTS spend is in­tended to take place in-store. Data revealed by Deloitte sug­gests that mass mer­chants will emerge as the top shop­ping pref­er­ence, with the vast ma­jor­ity of house­holds (83%) plan­ning to visit such re­tail­ers. The psy­chol­ogy be­hind this is the fact that cus­tomers tend to spend more when they are shop­ping from tra­di­tional re­tail­ers such as depart­ment stores, home elec­tron­ics stores, and of­fice sup­ply stores owing to the fa­mil­iar­ity con­di­tioned in their mind­set.

While plan­ning their as­sort­ments, re­tail­ers should take the swelling pur­chas­ing in­flu­ence of Gen Z into con­sid­er­a­tion. These kids are more likely to steer par­ents’ pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions than con­sumers be­fore them. If prod­ucts don’t ap­peal to the child, it’s not com­ing back home with them.

Re­tail­ers should also note where all con­sumers are plan­ning to shop, what items they are plan­ning to buy, and how dig­i­tal will af­fect their fi­nal de­ci­sion mak­ing.

Here is an anal­y­sis into the key per­form­ing trends for this sea­son and how they are set to in­flu­ence the ap­proach­ing year…


The over­ar­ch­ing theme of func­tion­al­ity and com­fort fil­ter out to the younger tar­get mar­ket as well, mak­ing ac­tivewear a hot cat­e­gory this sea­son. Stu­dents want to be com­fort­able in and out­side the class­room – a de­mand­ing sched­ule fes­tooned with ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties in­clines par­ents and stu­dents to opt for mer­chan­dise that is ver­sa­tile and func­tional.

Ex­pected to con­tinue grow­ing at a steady pace, the ac­tivewear seg­ment is en­joy­ing a growth of 8%, up from 7% in 2017 and 6.5% in 2016. Per­for­mance gear, sporty tees, soft cot­ton blend hood­ies, draw­string waists, half-zip sweaters, loungewear pants, track­suits and knit base sneak­ers pose as pop­u­lar pieces amongst stu­dents.

Brands that com­bine sports­wear’s ver­sa­til­ity with style and lux­ury are po­si­tioned for suc­cess dur­ing this Back-to-School sea­son.


A key in­ter­na­tional re­tail best­seller from the first six months of 2018, front tie tops will con­tinue to go strong well into Fall/Win­ter 2018. Avail­able in cropped as well as full shirt styles (in tops) and also over one-piece jump­suits as a de­sign el­e­ment, the retroisque front-knot tops show fast con­sumer ab­sorp­tion.

Data col­lected by Style Sage sug­gests a sus­tained growth in the av­er­age prod­uct count be­gin­ning June

2018 from fast-fash­ion re­tail­ers such as For­ever 21 and ASOS.


The ’90s theme has swept the kidswear mar­ket. Data pro­poses that on­line pieces that ar­rived in the last three months sold out at full price, sig­nalling a huge pool of op­por­tu­nity here. Mer­chan­dise that mim­ics nos­tal­gic ref­er­ences to ’90s hit TV se­ries such as Friends is ma­jorly in­flu­enc­ing shop­pers this year. Pieces such as cor­duroy skirts, cardi­gans, denim over­alls, high-rise mom jeans, plaid shirts, mini-skirts and crop tops have seen a pos­i­tive boost. De­tails such as retro stripes, checker­board print pat­terns, retro lo­gos, and colour block­ing have also emerged as di­rec­tional trends.

Ac­cord­ing to Edited, the trend rev­elled in a six­fold in­crease in the num­ber of kidswear prod­ucts termed as 90s’ style in July at on­line e-shops.


Hard to pin down un­der a par­tic­u­lar trend, the colour pal­ette en­joyed by the Back-to-School cat­e­gory largely com­prises of rich tones. Fol­low­ing the run­way trends of Fall last year, the as­sort­ment for boys boasts of a lot of black and red ref­er­ences. Ex­pect tech­niques such as colour block­ing and checker­board ref­er­ence to be stand-outs for the sea­son.

Yel­low, golds and lilacs are a big hit for young girls, along with shades of dusty pink and pow­der blush.


A sea­sonal sta­ple, check­ered prints have been a dom­i­nant de­sign el­e­ment since ages, and have evolved from their orig­i­nal Scot­tish roots to take on more experimental themes.

For this sea­son, stu­dents are look­ing at this her­itage print and in­cor­po­rat­ing it into edgy lay­er­ing sep­a­rates such as plaid co-or­di­nates, trousers, tops, and scarves. As Fall ap­proaches, it is ex­pected that this trend would con­tinue to spike up in terms of the num­bers of pieces be­ing in­tro­duced by var­i­ous re­tail­ers and brands, con­tin­u­ing well into the Win­ter hol­i­day sea­son.


Of­fer­ing the cor­ner­stones of both util­ity and ver­sa­til­ity, dun­ga­rees or over­alls pose as a re­tail favourite for stu­dents and par­ents alike. Their no-fuss char­ac­ter­is­tics make them quick selling pieces and a safe bet with re­tail­ers. Fur­ther­more, the resur­gence of ’90s in­spired nos­tal­gia in fash­ion, makes this a hot item for the sea­son…, suit­able to be worn with both short and long sleeve tees and sweaters; grant this trend the ti­tle of be­ing a year-round sta­ple. ASOS and For­ever 21 showed a marked in­crease in over­alls dur­ing the month of July 2018.


Con­trary to the rise in loungewear and com­fort dress­ing, Spring/Sum­mer 2018 saw an up­ward spike in denim prod­ucts be­ing of­fered by dif­fer­ent re­tail­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to El­iz­a­beth Melley, Vice Pres­i­dent of chil­dren’s and men’s prod­uct de­vel­op­ment at JCPen­ney, styles such as high-waists, an­kle lengths, clean fin­ishes, black washes and ex­posed but­ton flys are in trend for the ju­nior cat­e­gory.

For girls, pieces that in­cor­po­rate stretch, em­broi­dery and em­bel­lish­ments, de­struc­tion, and styles such as denim jack­ets and cuffed and cropped hems are trend­ing whereas for boys, pieces fea­tur­ing de­struc­tion, cuffed and cropped hems in black washes take the cake.

Stand­out trends in­clude patch­work denim over jack­ets and jeans, com­bined with ripped/ dis­tressed de­tail­ing. Brands with skills in in­tri­cacy are en­hanc­ing their ba­sic denim of­fer­ings with over­laid pat­terns or em­broi­deries that fea­ture flo­ral and/or cos­mic ref­er­ences. What is to be noted here is that, in July alone, the num­ber of em­broi­dered jeans that sold out at ASOS rose by 9%.



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