Push Back-To-School When You’re Not Sure Who’s Going Back


This is a most unusual back-to-school season. What else is there to say when many students spent their summer cooped up in Covid-safe zones and now that it’s (almost) September there’s a good chance that school will be postponed or shelved entirely?

So far, retailers have chosen to largely ignore the pandemic (Macy’s) or embrace the new normal (Walmart). Walmart’s ad is especially of-the-moment. It features a young tot who wears a mask for school, but then discards it when he goes home.

Walmart’s tagline: However you go back, Walmart’s got your back.

Similarly, Macy’s tagline is “No matter how we school, let’s be ready.” To reinforce the point, the ad shows students getting their work done at home:

Perhaps the most on-point ad is from Old Navy, which ran an ad featuring a sing-along including the apropos line, “New school year. Whatever that means…”

Old Navy appears to be an early favorite to win BTS ‘20. That’s because it has run 6-second ads themed, “Face Masks for the Groovy.”

Looking at the data around back-to-school, digital analytics firm LatentView Analytics found the following insights:

  • The buzz around BTS supplies on Amazon fell by almost 70 percent this year compared to the previous two years. Early trends suggest that barring the arts and crafts category, almost every category dropped a minimum of 50 percent.
  • Overall, Amazon has benefited from the lockdown so far. Essential writing products like notebooks, writing kits and composition books surged 38 percent in the share supplies in the run-up to the actual season compared with 25 percent last year during the same period.
  • Since so many students are educating from home, there’s been a 12 percent decline in backpacks, lunch boxes and combination locks—items needed for in-class instruction.
  • There was an increase of about 14 percent in sales of writing essentials over 2019.