3rd largest consumer spending event of the year //

Ramping up in July and running through Labor Day weekend, Back to School is now nearly a 3-month season of families and students shopping for everything from pencils and three-ring binders, to new shoes, fall clothing, backpacks, electronics, phones, and all the accessories that go with modern digital learning.

Students head back to class any time from late July to after Labor Day, Dates vary considerably by state and region, based on Pew Research Center’s analysis (right) of a sampling of the nation’s 13,000-plus public school districts. 

Typical school start dates by region of the U.S.

Consumer Insights

The Back to School season is the third largest annual consumer spending event according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF). For total planned spending it comes in after winter holidays (1st) and Back to College (2nd). The following information is from the NRF’s 2020 Back to School survey.  With families expecting at least some classes to be taking place online in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic is still making an impact on shopping trends. 

As students geared up for distance learning, electronics and computer-related equipment were expected to surpass clothing and accessories for the top category by average spend per household. This is pushing the total planned household spend to a high of $789.49 for 2020. (Learn about spending for college students in our Back to College hub.)


Also, keep in mind that “members of Generation Z are clearly becoming more involved with back-to-school purchasing decisions rather than leaving the choices up to mom and dad. Over the years, both teens and pre-teens are spending more of their own money on back-to-school items,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.


Just over 3 in 5 parents will start their back to school shopping in July or earlier according to a survey by RetailMeNot which reports that typical peak shopping days for Back to School season are:

1. Amazon Prime Day (not yet announed for 2021)

2. First weekend in August

3. Labor Day weekend

In order to get a feel for demand, we checked out Google Trends data for “school supplies” searches in 2020.

Right after the 4th of July we can see online queries steadily trending up with a peak the second weekend in August. Searches trend down from there and settle back into normal levels after the week of Labor Day. Leading us to believe the August peak is driven by natural consumer demand, with the other two peaks being driven by retail promotions.

Back To School Retail Promotions

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 planned for the early summer of 2021.

Labor Day Weekend

While in the past Prime Day has been called the official kick off of Back to School season, Labor Day Weekend is now 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

To help you pull together your promotional content and marketing materials quickly we’ve curated  some resources to inspire your planning.


Back to School Hashtags

Help your content get discovered on social media with relevant hashtags. Popular hashtags include: #backtoschool #backtoschoolsale #backtoschooldeals #schoolshopping #backtoschoolsupplies #schoolsupplies #schoollife #backtoschoolstyle


Back to School Images

Stay top of mind as a resource for the season with Back to School themed imagery. Here is a small selection of the photos we have curated from Unsplash to spark ideas.


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

Back to School Quotes

Acknowledge the dedication of teachers and the power of education with inspiring quotes.

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” —Malcolm X

“One day middle school will end and become high school and after that it just becomes life. All those things you think are important now won’t be anymore.”Diary of a Wimpy Kid

“Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen.”—Conan O’Brien

The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —Dr. Seuss

“When you take risks, you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” —Ellen DeGenere

“Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.” —Oprah Winfrey

“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” —Lily Tomlin

“The first day of school is always a fashion show. The rest of the school year? A pajama party.” Unknown


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