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Back to School Sales a Multi-Billion Dollar Opportunity

Retailers of all sizes look to the end of the year for big holiday sales numbers. But the four- to five-week run from Thanksgiving to Christmas finds itself closely followed by back-to-school shopping taking place during the summer months.

How close? How about an estimated $68 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. SMB sellers take note, parents will spend on apparel, school supplies, and shoes.

The biggest names in retail know shoppers have distinct needs for their school-going offspring. The increasingly close rivalry between Amazon and Walmart for ecommerce dollars encompasses back-to-school purchases, as both companies tout promotional prices and specials. eBay provided back to school suggestions for their sellers, ranging from marketing to teens, to promoting goods like bedding and small appliances needed by college-bound students.

There seems to be a focus on August shopping among sellers and other promoting back to school deals. This appears at odds with school calendars in many locations that start in mid-August, rather than after Labor Day as is the custom for other areas.

FreeShipping.com is one business focusing promotional efforts at these August back-to-school shoppers. Its promotion for subscribers to the service offers 20% cash back on all purchases from 10 major retailers, including Walmart, Macy’s, Dell, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Office Max.

Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce, which owns FreeShipping.com, told EcommerceBytes “our customers enjoy a higher degree of confidence when they shop, the kind of confidence that encourages them to make purchases that they might not otherwise consider.” The company offers unlimited free returns via FedEx Ground service; shoppers do need to follow a retailer’s stated return policies when sending back a purchase.

So why the relatively late back-to-school promotion? Caporaso said they have offered their subscribers extra cashback promotions around peak shopping periods over the past two years.

“They’ve consistently produced positive back-end results, including higher customer engagement with the program, as seen by increased purchase frequencies, higher spending, and increased sales conversion rates on clicks from our site to retailers’ sites,” he said.

FreeShipping.com also offers some direct benefits for SMBs who partner with them. Caporaso noted, “On top of adding value to customers’ experiences with an offer to alleviate the shipping charge they just paid, we’ll bolster the retailer’s bottom line by paying a commission on every customer who joins the program from its site.”

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.