Which Retailers Got the Highest Grades for Back to School?

Tim Denman
Editor in Chief
a man wearing a suit and tie

Back-to-school season is big business. Parents of school-age children on up to college students fill the coffers of apparel, school supplies and home goods retailers as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Near has released data that unearths key trends for the back-to-school shopping season across five major U.S. cities. While online shopping continues to be on the rise, the bulk of back-to-school shopping still occurs at the store level. Near’s researched in-store, back-to-school activity across major retail markets to uncover which retailers made the biggest splash during retail’s second-biggest shopping season of the year.  

“We wanted to see who is shopping for back to school and where they are shopping,” said Smriti Kataria, vice president of marketing, Near. “What we discovered is that more men than women shopped during this season. That is interesting and it goes against what we’ve seen in the past. Brands can use this insight as they create marketing plans for next year’s back-to-school shopping season to appeal to shoppers.”

Key finding from Near’s research include:

  • More men than women shopped during this season. Males accounted for more than half (54%) of the visitors at Nordstrom’s store in Dallas. And more than half (59%) of Kohl’s shoppers during the back-to-school season were men.
  • Staples and Best Buy were the most popular stores in terms of foot traffic and TJ Maxx in New York was popular among younger parents.
  • For Staples one of the two hottest back-to-school stores was the retailer’s Fifth Avenue store in New York. While for Best Buy, San Francisco was the busiest hub of activity.
  • Walnut Street in Philadelphia, Lincoln Park in Chicago and the Upper West Side of New York were the most popular back-to-school shopping spots overall.

Near wasn’t the only company to research foot traffic during the back-to-school rush. Placer.ai also examined retailer store performance and uncovered some keen insight on individual retailer performance:

  • Target and Walmart saw continued growth for the back-to-school season. Target’s visits increased 9.4% year-over-year this August. Walmart’s visits jumped 8.5% nationwide compared to last year.
  • Staples enjoyed a 2.2% increase in foot traffic nationwide compared to August 2018 numbers.
  • Office Depot, who announced the closure of dozens of locations around the country, saw a spike that nearly equaled its 2018 performance. Looking at traffic decreases year-over-year shows a 4.2% decline from July 2018 to July 2019. That number shrinks to just a 1.5% decrease from August 2018 to August 2019.
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