8 Ways Non-Retailers Can Attract Back To School Shoppers

Back To SchoolThere was a time when all back to school shopping meant picking up a new pair of shoes and a hot, new ALF Trapper Keeper. Sadly, ALF is off the air. But not so sadly is that back to school shopping is now a $70 billion business, according to the National Retail Federation, and you don’t just have to sell school supplies or clothes to get a part of that.  Everyone from gyms to dentists to industrial floor cleaners can get in on the action, and here’s 8 suggestions for how.

    • Offer “Back to Normal” Specials

By the end of summer, the sound of kids around the house can seem only slightly more pleasant than early morning sewer construction. So offer newly-relieved parents stuff like long-overdue haircuts, spa treatments, post-summer cleaning services and even drinks at a “they’re-finally-back-to-school” discount.

    • Time-Sensitive “Last Chance of Summer” Specials

Ok, so TECHNICALLY summer’s not over until September 21, but if kids are going back to school this might be a last chance for family dinners out on your restaurant’s patio. Or if you deal in any sort of season-specific stuff, like boat rentals or stand-up paddleboard yoga lessons, get it in people’s heads that this “end of summer” will be their last chance to do it.

    • Medical Tie-Ins

Since school is basically a giant rhino virus incubator for most of the year, back to school checkups are something a lot of parents might not think about, but will think “that’s a great idea” if you suggest it. Same with dental exams and orthodontia. Because if there’s one thing every kid needs before starting 7th grade, it’s a fresh new set of braces.

    • Market to Teachers

People in awards acceptance speeches seem to love saying stuff like ‘But really, the heroes here are our teachers.” But you never see them offering up any money, do you? So put your money where your teacher-appreciative mouth is and offer up deals for teachers only.  Like car detailing, for when their car is inevitably egged. Or drink specials for teachers on a Friday. Double specials if they teach middle school.

    • Give Back to the Schools

Or, if you’re still mad at the 9th grade English teacher who gave you a C-, show your appreciation by donating a certain amount of your proceeds from your back to school promotions to local schools. The good PR lets you say “No hard feelings, Mr. Wexler” without having to actually give something directly to him.

    • Offer “Kids Eat Free,” Or “Eat Without Your Kid” Specials

There’s two schools of thought here: 1) People will miss their kids when they’re in school, and want to eat with them somewhere. So offer parents “kids eat free” with paying adults specials. 2) Parents will want to finally go out to lunch/dinner WITHOUT the kids, so offer specials for parents who now have time for that 2-martini lunch.

    • Get People to Look Better

After about age 10, no kid is going to want to go back to school and have people say “Oh, did you gain some weight?” So back-to-school gym specials and fitness classes will get a lot of teen and college aged students coming in, especially if you start early. Same with tanning salons. Because even if your customers couldn’t afford that family summer trip to Aruba, there’s no reason they can’t get a tan and lie about it.

    • Be Where Your Competition Is Not

Who’s ever heard of a back to school special for industrial floor cleaning? Nobody. But if you’re the only industrial floor cleaning company offering a back to school special, who do you think somebody in the market for that service is going to go with? Don’t be afraid to tie-in a seemingly irrelevant business to back to school, because if you’re promoting when the completion isn’t, you win.

Image courtesy of samarttiw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Matt Meltzer

Matt Meltzer is a professor of business communication at the University of Miami. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds a bachelors degree in business administration from UM, as well as a Masters of Mass Communication from the University of Florida.