As we head into the final stretch of summer break for U.S. students, who typically return to school in mid-August, Agility PR Solutions’ Back to School media tracking analysis (for coverage between July 30 and August 12) noted an ongoing steep increase in weekly coverage volumes. In the most recent full week of our study, we gathered more than 10,000 online media mentions of “back to school” related keywords from US sources.
Our media tracking also found shifts in the major retailers earning mentions in traditional US media in this time period. For the first time this summer, Amazon was dislodged from first place in coverage, with Walmart taking top spot, knocking Amazon down to second place. Target continued to round out the top three retailers. Looking further down the list, it makes sense to see Staples rising to 4th place overall (from 8th place a couple of weeks ago) and Office Depot jumping from 13th to 6th as shoppers look to fill their new backpacks with stationery and supplies.
Indeed, five of the top six retailers saw lifts in their coverage driven by competing bargains on smaller school essentials and their joint participation in TeacherLists. Major discount stores Dollar Tree and Dollar General, as well as drug store chains Walgreens and CVS, also saw strong improvements in the ranking, thanks to their own offers on smaller items.
This shift in priorities saw a corresponding sag for a number of electronics and clothing retailers, with Apple, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Gap, and Nordstrom among the names sinking in the rankings as consumer interest and corresponding media coverage shifts toward pencils, binders, and calculators.
The Canadian back to school landscape is similar, with Canadian Tire joining Walmart and Amazon in the top three. As with the U.S. coverage, Canadian media mentions of “Back to School” also continue to climb from week to week, nearly doubling in frequency to more than 100 mentions per day between July 30 and August 12.
Throughout the summer, we have noted that back to school shopping battles between retailers are taking place online more than they ever have before. Along with a shift to online purchases, research tells us that back to school shoppers are increasingly turning to mobile options instead of computers, and a growing proportion of shoppers actually look at items in-store before they buy online. This ever-shifting omni-channel approach to shopping poses new challenges to retailers hoping to cash in on this major shopping season.
With media coverage for back to school shopping at its highest pitch so far—currently averaging nearly 1500 articles a day in the U.S. and 100 in Canada—in the next phase we’ll be watching to see when this trend breaks, and how quickly it segues into holiday shopping. That, too, promises to start strong and early, with retailers poised to launch their Black Friday campaigns earlier than ever before.
Cassandra Wilson performed the data analysis for this report. She is a member of the Client Services Enterprise team at Agility PR Solutions and is the resident retail and broadcast media expert.