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FLEXE Hub: Back-to-school 2019 stats and trends

A roundup of the latest news on logistics, retail, and industry trends

Keeping up with the latest store closures, emerging tech, and what Amazon is doing could easily be a full-time job. Luckily for you, it’s ours.

It’s the last week of August and peak back-to-school season, so we’re looking at the top back-to-school headlines from the past few weeks, including:

  • A consumer trends update from the National Retail Federation
  • Ways mall retailers are getting smarter about back-to-school
  • How online shopping has changed college move-in day

Back-to-school update: The numbers are in

The National Retail Federation checked in with consumers to see where they stood with their back-to-school shopping as of early August. They looked at how and where they were buying, and how things have changed since 2018. Here are the highlights:

  • On average, families are spending $696.70 on back-to-school shopping this year, up from $684.79 in 2018.
  • Back-to-school shoppers are starting earlier than ever, with 54% completing their shopping by the first week of August.
  • The top 2 reasons shoppers aren’t yet finished is they don’t know what is needed (39%), or they are waiting for the best deals (36%).
  • Department stores are still the number one choice for back-to-school shoppers, with 49% planning to do the rest of their shopping there.
  • Shoppers are primarily influenced by school requirements (65%) and sales and promotions (51%).


Back-to-school retailers are finally catching up

Back-to-school shopping used to mean stocking up on sweaters and winter coats you wouldn’t be able to wear for months, and completing a school-years worth of shopping before the start of September. Now that we have anything and everything available to us at all times, that’s all changed.

This isn’t news to us, but many traditional mall brands have been slow to adapt to the new ways customers want to shop. This year, however, brands are finally getting the memo. Forbes noted that mall stores were displaying late-summer appropriate clothing instead of fall and winter garments in their back-to-school sales.

They also noticed that back-to-school sales are going on for longer than usual as teens have begun to wait and see what other kids are wearing before finalizing their purchases. Some brands like Vans are further incentivizing later season purchases with coupons. They have a deal where “customers who spend $65 or more between August 2 and September 11 get $25 off of their next purchase of $65 or more between Sept 13-30.”

As we saw in the NRF report above, back-to-school shopping is still primarily done in department stores, so these adjustments should go a long way this season.

Via Forbes

Direct-to-dorm supply chain

If it’s been a minute since you were last in a college dorm room, you might not have considered the impact online retail would have on the traditional college move-in day. Instead of unloading a packed car full of all your stuff, some universities are allowing college students to have items shipped directly to their dorms ahead of move-in. Leaving universities with the logistical challenge of storing them all.

Tulane University in New Orleans has been dealing with this problem for some time, initially storing and sorting boxes in 53-foot tractor-trailers because its mailroom wasn’t equipped to handle the oversized boxes. When they outgrew even that solution, they worked with a contractor to plan out a supply chain that could deliver these packages to the spot where they have the most storage space on campus: Students dorm rooms.

Utilizing both an owned warehouse and a rented one to receive and store the packages, they then sort and move them directly to the dorm rooms. Enabling them to move the 500 packages that arrive per day during the two-week move-in window.

Just as retailers and brands have had to adapt to the changes online retail has brought to back-to-school shopping, universities are having to as well. Online retail has affected every aspect of the delivery of goods and we can expect to have to keep innovating if we want to keep up.

Via Supply Chain Dive

FLEXE news & events

"Identify and retain talent with Deirdre Runnette at FLEXE and Kage Spatz"

Our Chief People Officer, Deirdre Runnette, shares tips for leading with trust, empowering creativity, and driving results. Read the article in Thrive Global here.

"In an Amazon age, startup finds following with on-demand warehouses"

FLEXE's co-founder and CEO, Karl Siebrecht, and Chief Technology Officer, David Glick, were interviewed in The Information about FLEXE's offerings and plans for the future. Read the article here.

The 2019 State of On-Demand Warehousing

Our latest whitepaper covers everything you need to know about on-demand warehousing, including key industry trends and how your business can benefit. Download it here.

Upcoming events

FLEXE will be making our way through the supply chain event circuit over the next few months. Here’s what’s coming up:

Old news

In case you missed them, check out our last few FLEXE Hub’s: Does sustainability sell, Life after the mall, Amazon Prime Day 2019 news roundup, and Prime Day showdown.