From July onwards preparing for the kids to go back for the new term is front of mind for well organised parents with school age children. As we went to press the pundits were talking about UK inflation rising, growth grinding to a halt and consumer confidence disappearing. But whatever the economy is doing, mums still have to get the kids ready.

From the start of the school holidays, as the days pass and September gets nearer ‘Back To School’ is very big business indeed, taking in food and drink items for the lunch box and clothing, footwear and home stationery.

The lunchbox is by far the biggest part of the ‘Back To School’ business. Food and drink products for school age children have been transformed in recent years thanks to the sea change to fewer additives, lower fat, less salt and sugar, natural colours and so on, and represent a healthier choice than a generation ago. In our more equal times mums still do the bulk of the purchasing for the lunchbox as part of the weekly shop, and these items represent a major opportunity.

And then there’s the kids themselves. One way or another, older primary school kids and secondary school kids have plenty of their own cash to spend on impulse food, drink, confectionery and other items in local stores on the way to school, at lunchtime and on the way home.

In the non-food area, taking clothing first, even though only 7% of children technically attend fee-paying schools, you still have to buy them clothes for school and there is a substantial cost for all parents associated with sending children there. On average, parents end up spending well over £100 per child every year on ‘Back To School’ items. In context, spending on school wear represents around 20% of all spending on children’s clothes.

The supermarkets make good business out of offering cheap school uniforms, clothing and footwear. Their increased focus on non-food continues to be extremely successful; in the case of stationery encroaching on the sales of traditional stationery retailers like WH Smith. At the same time, with the changing role of technology in the classroom and the need for school kids and families at home to be fully up to date, demand is growing for computer accessories such as bags, memory sticks, printers, ink cartridges and paper, each of which presents huge opportunities for multiple grocers.

The writing on the blackboard couldn’t be clearer – do your homework on Back to School and get top marks!

The Grocery Trader

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