2nd largest consumer spending event of the year //

Every summer, college-bound students start preparing for their return to class. Shopping for essentials begins gaining momentum after the 4th of July and runs through Labor Day with electronics and computer related equipment on the top of students’ lists. 

Consumer Insights

The Back to College season is the 2nd largest annual consumer spending event surpassed only by the winter holidays, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF). The following information is from the NRF’s 2020 Back to College survey. With students expecting at least some classes to still be taking place online, the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to make an impact on trends for 2021. 

Of note from their research, college shoppers had a planned household spend of $1059 allocated to the following top categories:

1. Electronics or computer-related equipment   2.  Clothing or accessories   3. Dorm or apartment furnishings   4. Food items   5. Shoes

With more reliance on distance learning in 2020, we saw a big increase in planned spending for laptops, computers, speakers/headphones, and other accessories. We will see how this shifts as plans become clearer for 2021. Ecommerce held the number one spot as the preference for college bound shoppers, followed by department stores, discount stores, and college bookstores for students wanting to show their school spirit.

Convenience was identified as a key driver in Deloitte’s 2019 Back To College Market Study. 52% of those polled said they find starter packs and bundles beneficial followed by care packages at 32%.


According to Deloitte’s research, over 60% of parents begin back-to-college shopping before August. Capturing the attention of these July shoppers is quite desirable as they plan to spend over 30% more than those who start later.

In terms of peaks for the season, RetailMeNot reports for the Back to College and Back to School shopping season the typical top shopping days are:

1. Amazon Prime Day (yet to be announced for 2021)

2. First weekend in August

3. Labor Day weekend

For more insight on back to class shopping trends for elementary and high school students visit our Back to School planner.

Back to College Retail Promotion

Prime Day

In its sixth year, Prime Day is Amazon.com’s largest global shopping day with deals exclusively for Amazon Prime members. In 2019 the profusion of deals went live on July 15, 2019 and lasted for 48 hours. The date was pushed back to October for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to happen in the early summer of 2021.

Labor Day Weekend

While Prime Day historically has been called the official kick off of Back to School season, Labor Day Weekend is being referred to as the “new Black Friday.” This pronouncement comes from Criteo which has tracked 128 million completed transactions from 591 of its U.S. retail clients.

For example, you can expect to see a 24% increase in apparel sales that weekend, compared to the average totals in July. And consumer electronics should rise by 28%. In addition, furniture — i.e., desks, lamps, and bedding — should see a 33% spike.” as reported by MediaPost. 

Marketing Resources

Get a jump start on your promotional content and marketing materials with the following resources.


Back to College Hashtags

Help your content get discovered on social media with relevant hashtags. Popular hashtags include: #college #collegelife #collegebound #collegeshopping #dorm #dormroom #dormshopping #dormlife #uni #firstapartment #offtocollege #studentlife #collegestudent #highered #moveinday


Back to College Images

Quickly establish your business as a resource for the season with college themed imagery. We’ve curated a selection of free photos from Unsplash to get you started, below is a sample.

Click below to view and download photos from our full Unsplash Back to College photo collection. Find out more about their free to use license and how to give the photographer credit, not required, but appreciated.

Back to College Quotes

Celebrate the power of education with these college quotes and sayings.

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it from you.” —B.B. King

“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” —Zig Ziglar

“Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.” —Nelson Mandela

“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.” —George Clooney

“I’ve failed over and over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” —Karim Seddiki

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” —Leonardo da Vinci

“Follow your passion. It will lead you to your purpose.” —Oprah

“Do not make your goal to be the best. Best is a label. It’s something someone else decides for you. ‘Better’ is more personal.” —Baryshnikov

“Your biggest risk isn’t failing, it’s getting too comfortable.” —Drew Houston

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” –Oscar Wilde

“Only a generation of readers will spawn a generation of writers.” ― Steven Spielberg

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ― Plutarch

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” —Jimmy Johnson

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” —Confucius

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” —Steve Jobs

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