What Back to School Season Means for Businesses


When the pandemic hit, schools were forced  to close and learning was moved online. Now, after more than a year of online schooling, many students and parents are longing to return to in-person classes. In fact, according to a Google-commissioned Ipsos COVID-19 tracker, more than half of all students in North America expect to return to in-class learning this year.¹


Although in-class learning is expected to return, the annual back-to-school shopping season likely won’t look the same as before the pandemic. There are several consumer behavior changes that you can expect to see. Based on our research and data from the Google-commissioned Ipsos COVID-19 tracker, here are the back-to-school trends that are emerging so you can stay in the know.



New shopping trends:


This year’s back-to-school shopping list will be different from that before the pandemic. The majority of North Americans plan to buy typical school supplies such as pencils, pens and stationery, while 44% plan to buy clothing, apparel and footwear. More than a third of back-to-school shoppers plan to buy personal protective equipment – health and safety supplies such as masks and hand sanitizers.¹



Buyers – leveraging new channels:


After a turbulent year of shortages of grocery items and consumer goods, shoppers want to be sure they’ll get the items they desire. To adapt to the changing environment many businesses introduced strategies such as online sales (e-commerce) and curbside pickup.


Consumers want the flexibility to purchase the items they need when they want and how they want. Among North American back-to-school shoppers, 50% say they’ll check for in-store inventory online before going into a store and 48% will shop at stores that offer curbside pickup or contactless shipping. Furthermore, 60% of back-to-school shoppers plan to do at least a portion of their shopping at a small business this year.¹


If possible, do what you can to fit back-to-school themes into your normal marketing expenditures. If it makes sense for your business, there is no harm in capitalizing on the back-to-school themes in your typical marketing expenditures.


As we move forward, we are hopeful for the return of in-class schooling, border openings, in-person gatherings, and, most importantly, economic recovery. We are here to help you prepare your business for the comeback.




1 Google-commissioned Ipsos COVID-19 tracker, North America, ~n=494 online adults 18+ that have students or are students, June 27, 2021–June 30, 2021.