Delta variant is derailing back-to-school shopping for parents and retailers

Back-to-school shopping is being hampered by the Delta variant, both for retailers and parents.

Back-to-school shoppers and retailers are stocking up with supplies this year with mixed emotions, as the contagious delta virus of the coronavirus hangs over an expected year of in-person education.

Inmar Intelligence’s product marketing lead Sarah Hughes said that about half of back-to-work shoppers plan to continue making their regular purchases, despite the wide spread of the delta variant. This shows that they are optimistic about a normal fall return to school.

However, there are concerns that the coronavirus epidemic and the resulting hospitalizations in the country could be another repeat of the last year when most students stayed at home.

Delta variant is derailing back-to-school shopping for parents and retailers
Delta variant is derailing back-to-school shopping

Schools all over the country are making last-minute changes to digital learning. Some are even abandoning it altogether. Despite this, there has been continued debate about the need for schools to have masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all school staff and students wear masks. Eight states have banned schools from wearing masks, while 10 states have mandated that all staff wear them.

According to Katherine Cullen (senior director for industry insights and consumer insights at National Retail Federation), families with children aged K-12 will spend on average $850 this year on back-to school shopping. This is an increase of about $60 over last year. This amounts to $37 billion in total spending, which is an increase of $3 billion over last year.

She said that a lot of this is due to the expectation that school will be held in person this year. As they prepare for their in-person classes, kids will need to have backpacks, lunchboxes and new electronics.

Supply chains are also being squeezed as demand for goods increases with school return. Parts of Asia that produce apparel and electronics have been devastated by the virus, while U.S. ports are still backed up. Panjiva, S&P Global Market Intelligence’s global trade database, showed that while back-to school imports have increased from 2020 levels, they are still below 2019 levels. The U.S. imported apparel and shoes for children increased by 64 percent in the second quarter 2021, but they are still about 13 percent below that of 2019.

Jonathan Gold, vice-president of supply chain policy and customs policy at the NRF said Tuesday that “Unfortunately, these supply chain disruptions, and port congestion, we’ve seen this past year, are impacting inventory availability.” These issues are likely to impact peak-season shipping and many people expect them to continue into 2022.

Back-to-school shoppers are trepidatious because of uncertainty around the delta variant, according to Camilo Lyon, a global financial services analyst at BTIG and a lifestyle brand and wellness expert.

He said that “where there had been more robust spending on apparel categories geared toward going out, there’s been a bit of a slowdown recently across different retail channels.”

According to a July survey, 72 percent of Bed Bath & Beyond shoppers had completed less than 50% of their back-to college shopping. According to the survey, about a third of the shoppers were still waiting for the best deals and one quarter said that they didn’t know what they would need for school year.

Patrik Frisk (CEO of Under Armor) told investors last week in an earnings call that he hopes for a more normalized return-to-school season, as children get back into recreational activities and go back to school.

He said, “People have to go out and get stuff.” Does that mean a resurgence is unlikely? I’m not sure. Your guess is as good or better than mine.

Back-to-school shopping can be a lengthy process for some. Prime members bought more than 600,000. backpacks, 1,000,000 laptops, 1,000,000 headphones, 240,000 notebooks and 40,000 calculators on Amazon’s Prime Day, June 1, according to Lauren Englund (Amazon spokesperson), in an email statement.

Valier Barricklow is a Texas mom who told NBC News that she started back-to school shopping online in January in order to get better deals for her daughter. She will be starting her second year at Texas State University in person this year. She did virtual schooling her first year.

She stated, “I wanted to ensure that at least on our side, we were ready for go.”

To outfit her daughter’s dorm room, she was advised to expect to spend between $900 to $1,000. She spent $750 because of winter sales.

She said that “generally speaking, things sell pretty quickly.” “If you haven’t started shopping for your children back to school, it is time to do so.

Retailers believe that customers will spend more on clothes and supplies after spending a year indoors. In July’s earnings call, Brian Lynch, President of Carter’s, stated that the company’s back-to school business had a strong start to the summer.

He said, “It’s an outfit replacement for the children.” “Basic tees and shorts, denim, and uniforms are all strong businesses right out of the gate.

David Nielsen, President of Overstock, told investors in July that the company was ready for “pent up demand” for the back-to-school season. This includes college students who are looking for bedding and other room decor. Edmond Thomas, Tilly’s CEO, stated in June that backpack sales and denim sales increased by almost $5 million in the three months ended in May compared to the same period in 2019. In July, Vans CEO Stephen Rendle stated to investors that the company is so positive about this year’s back school season, it is increasing its full-year growth targets.

Lauren Hobart, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, stated that “back-to-school,” she believes, will be big. “So we’re leaning into it.”

Tiara Baines, a Raleigh mother of three, said to NBC News she just completed back-to-school shopping for her daughter, seven, last weekend. She will be starting second grade in person in the fall. She spent $300 at The Children’s Place, a few local stores, and $30 at Walmart for school supplies. This is more than she spent last year while her daughter was in virtual schooling.

Baines stated that she wanted to ensure that her daughter had everything. “Last year, although I didn’t shop a lot for clothes, I did buy more and some that she didn’t use.”

Baines hopes that schools will remain open to ensure that her daughter, a student with ADHD, receives the support she requires. She also spent hundreds of dollars on school clothes.

“Do you worry about the delta variant?” Yes, she replied. However, I told her to keep her mask on and keep it over her face. “Regardless of what happens I will have to spend money regardless.”

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