Custom School Merchandise is a big business opportunity for printers this Back-to-School season

Hello printers, get ready as it’s that time of year again! Students, whether from college or school, are looking forward to start a new year. Back-to-school (B2S) shopping season accounts for about 50% of annual school-related spend and touches about one-quarter of the U.S. households. According to, the average United States citizen spends 15%-29% of their life in school. That accounts for high school as well as higher education!

If you think about these statistics in terms of promotional products, schools and colleges cross globe are now adopting branded personalized mercandize for brand exposure. This in-turn offers a big business opportunity for promotional product suppliers and print service providers.

The second largest consumer spending period of the year

With total sales for 2017 being about $ 83.6 billion as estimated by NRF (National Retail Federation), Back-to-School was the second biggest shopping season. This is a double-digit increase from last year’s $75.8 billion, which in turn was up by 11% from the year before. Of that combined total, $54.1 billion is projected to be spent on back-to-college, up 11.5% from last year and the highest figure on the record. The remaining $29.5 billion is for back-to-school, up about 8% from last year and the second-highest figure on record. All in all, this time it looks like a bright season for back-to-school and back-to-college spending as apparels account for the largest share of back-to-school spending for students and almost 60% of consumers planned to spend more on apparel purchases for back-to-school during the 2017 shopping season. This clearly indicates that Back-to-school (BTS) and back-to-college (BTC) spending will generally climb again this year with late August featuring as the top shopping days.

A report from Delloite reveals that the school merchandise shoppers utilize computers and smart phones during the shopping journey, but majority still purchase via computers. Also a quarter of them plan to use social media for transactional purposes – to find promos/coupons and browse and 77% say that they would use new digital in-store technologies that offer value and convenience.

According to the same survey, the south region of USA drives the Back-to-School season with the highest average spent of 554 USD and the average B2S spend remains flat at $501 in 2017 compared to $488 in 2016. But, although the B2S spend is expected to remain flat, the total allocations among categories is seen shifting toward the clothing and apparels industry.

The online opportunity

Gone are the days when parents and children would make a ritualistic trip to the store two weeks before school’s return looking for various school supplies and the latest clothing fads and essentials. This is the era of the millennial and their emphasis on social media nowadays has also changed the way fashion is communicated, inspired, and consumed among teens. Now, under such a huge opportunity, when we talk about the medium for the custom school merchandise suppliers to go for, the report suggest that even though in-store have dominated the B2S shopping channel so far, the undecided present a huge opportunity as they are more likely to incline towards the online shopping trend. Also, the “undecided” shopper is expected to spend an average of $549. So, for the retailers who understand their preferences, they can gain their patronage during the upcoming B2S season as for younger teens, Instagram (45%) is the most helpful social media platform for finding back-to-school items to buy, while college students see Facebook (53%) as their most helpful. Consumers also said that free shipping is one of the most important benefits of online shopping and in addition to that, brands selling back-to-school products online must integrate other perks to make up for the lack of spontaneous purchases made while walking in the physical store.

Here we can see that 52% of the B2S purchasers are millennial and 68% of them plan to purchase from online retailers. In 2017, roughly 44% back-to-school shoppers plan to spend at an online retailer according to both CTA and NRF.So, when they are targeting well, they’re targeting a younger demographic that will grow up with their brand and hence it has now become necessary for all the school merchandise suppliers to go the online way.

Many specialists who are already having their brands online are gearing themselves up. Firms like EBags typically focus on the travel market but, in summers, its marketing and selection focuses in the favour of back-to-school. “The back-to-school weeks are some of our biggest weeks of the year,” says eBags CEO Mike Edwards in an interview.”We try to offer unique product not commonly found on a marketplace or at Target. We put a lot of time into really enhancing the site experience with a backpack finder and by offering up easy solutions.””While we sell a lot online, it’s still a store experience and, in many cases, it’s a family activity,” he added.

So school merchandise sellers are already coming online and just in case you haven’t yet, it is better late than never. You can probably take a big leap forward and in fact stay ahead of the time by offering custom designed back-to-school products and merchandise by offering your customers an online storefront with an easy to use design tool for them to design their own product all by themselves. You can even offer number of schools and colleges with their private branded storefronts showcasing numerous products with their custom branding options.

Products to offer

We have prepared a list of all customized products that you can offer, after studying some of the website selling personalized school merchandize e.g. , and

1. Promotional Drawstring Backpack

Here’s a product that’s a part of a hot trend in the promotional products world! This custom drawstring backpack is a creative spin on typical custom drawstring backpacks and offering it customized is very much in the trend these days.

2. Custom Erasers and Flexible Rulers

3. Promotional Planner

Students can keep track of their assignments and record their notes inside their custom agenda book. Such planners are a great promotional giveaway for students at the beginning of a new school year!

4. Customized Supply Cases and Pouches

The customized case or pouch offers students an easy way to transport their supplies (pencils, markers, pens, highlighters, and calculators) from classroom to classroom throughout the day. Plus, their school’s logo or even their own designs will be featured prominently right on the case’s lid.

5. Custom Flash Drives

College students need flash drives to transport files and back up their work. The custom Flash Drive can be promoted in many ways.

6. Custom Lanyards

College students have a lot of important items to carry around! Whether it be student IDs, car keys, dorm keys, or other items, give students the customized Hang in There Lanyard to keep them organized.

7. Water Bottles

These high-quality bottles will be a great way to facilitate brand exposure with students that come from all across the country.

Offer personalized products and give your business a new high

School-focused shopping naturally involves a wider variety of categories like bedding, school stationary, uniforms and small electrics and other merchandise. But back-to-college shopping differs in that as they don’t need the same items year after year, with the focus shifting to filler purchases. To counter this trend, retailers have got to be creative enough with the products they market.

So if you are an custom merchandise provider/manufacturer, or serve the back-to-school industry, then make the most out of this second biggest shopping season by setting up your online store and letting your customers personalize their own apparel, shoes and school/college merchandise.

At DESIGN’N’BUY, we have helped various print service providers to setup their online stores for selling customized merchandise with our cutting-edge web-to-print solutions. To know more about our web-to-print and design tool solutions or the possibilities of having one developed exclusively for you, please connect with our sales team at [email protected].

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