Strong back-to-school shopping season expected in coming weeks, study suggests

Retail sales excluding petrol are expected to grow by 12% during the back-to-school period, compared with two years earlier.

Vicky Shaw
Sunday 15 August 2021 07:00
UK retailers are gearing up for a strong back-to-school shopping season, according to Mastercard (Mike Egerton/PA)
UK retailers are gearing up for a strong back-to-school shopping season, according to Mastercard (Mike Egerton/PA)

UK retailers are gearing up for a strong back-to-school shopping season in the coming weeks as “brick and mortar browsing” regains momentum, research suggests.

Retail sales, excluding petrol, are expected to grow by 12% during the August 16 to September 19 back-to-school period, compared with the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Year-on-year, sales are expected to grow by 6.7% compared with 2020.

The projections were made by Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment.

Fashion will be a big “winner” in the back-to-school shopping sprees, with clothing sales expected by Mastercard to increase by 18.7% compared with the same time last year.

This back-to-school season will be defined by choice as online sales remain robust and brick and mortar browsing regains momentum as shoppers seek to make up for lost time

Kelly Devine, Mastercard UK & Ireland

The home improvements trend is also set to continue, with furniture sales forecast to increase 11% year-on-year as people update their living and home office spaces.

Electronics sales are also forecast to increase by 8.9%, when comparing mid-August to mid-September 2021 with a year earlier.

“This year, the broader reopening of the high street brings an exciting wave of optimism as children prepare for what is hopefully an uninterrupted school year,” said Kelly Devine, divisional president, Mastercard UK & Ireland.

“This back-to-school season will be defined by choice as online sales remain robust and brick and mortar browsing regains momentum as shoppers seek to make up for lost time.”

Recent research by MoneySuperMarket found that more than three-quarters (77%) of parents have worried about the cost of putting their children through school – and nearly a fifth (17%) have felt under pressure to buy expensive technology.

Sasha Evans, a money expert at MoneySuperMarket has some suggestions to help parents save cash in the weeks ahead:

1. Make the most of supermarkets.

If there is no requirement to buy an official uniform from a specialist supplier, supermarkets can be a cheaper alternative, with various back-to-school bundles and ranges on offer. Outlet stores also have cut-price footwear.

Once you have bought all your uniform, label it so your child does not lose their belongings. Replacing lost items is an added expense.

2. Consider buying second-hand.

Many parent teacher associations run second-hand uniform sales. Also check out car boot sales and local groups on social media.

3. Save on stationery.

Firstly, hunt around the house to see what you have already got.

If you do need to buy new kit, check out supermarkets, pound shops, and other discount stores.

4. Research tech.

Prices can differ significantly store-to-store. Check out cashback websites for discounts on computing equipment and “refurbished tech” on websites such as eBay.

5. Save on packed lunches.

Supermarket basics can be a cheaper alternative to big-name brands. Savings could also be made by buying in bulk – just make sure you are going to use it all.

6. Ditch the car.

Walking or cycling to school may be an option. Parents living further away from school may also be able to make savings by sharing the school run with another parent.

7. Use discounts.

Supermarket points can be put to good use when buying items such as schoolbags and lunchboxes.

Also look online for voucher discounts and codes.

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