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Back to school gives online sales a 12% boost, data shows

M&S: one of the beneficiaries of a back to school bounce (Image: M&S)

The Back To School shopping season gave UK online retailers a much-needed boost in September, data shows. 

Against a challenging economic backdrop that sees the CBI’s monthly survey reporting UK retail sales fell to-20% in September, Wunderkind’s Marketing Pulse found that web traffic conversions and revenues benefitted hugely from the Back To School spending uplift. 

Web traffic to ecommerce sites peaked on Sunday 4 September as parents organised last-minute supplies and stationery for the beginning of the academic year, representing a +12.8% rise on the daily average for September. 

Meanwhile, visitors to online retailers’ websites in the last week of August – the last week of the summer holidays for many – was +10.2% higher than the first week in September (w/c 29.08 vs w/c 05.09).

Web conversions also benefitted from beginning of term spending, with conversion rates +5.5% higher in the last week of August compared to the first week in September. Web revenues were seen to peak on Friday 02 September, as last-minute purchases were made, with online sales rising +122.6% on the daily average for September on that day. Digital sales revenues also increased in the last week of August and were +38.4% higher than those of the first week in September.

Mastercard’s SpendingPulse suggests omnichannel sales during Back To School have now grown +12% compared to pre-pandemic levels, while M&S said the pre-term shopping season is now its third largest retail event, behind only Christmas and Easter.

Wulfric Light-Wilkinson, GM EMEA at Wunderkind International, comments: “Back To School is a growing retail phenomenon and presents the opportunity not only for retailers to grow sales but also boost shopper engagement ahead of peak trading.  As the rising cost of living makes every purchase a more considered one in the minds of shoppers, Back To School is the gateway to the Golden Quarter for retailers.  It offers them the opportunity to grow engagement and opt-ins and start building valuable customer-brand relationships ahead of Christmas trading.”

While 2022 Back To School offered a welcome sales uplift to online retailers, it also coincided with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. The announcement of her death prompted a significant drop in online sales. Online revenues on 09 September dropped -72.8% week-on-week (02.09 vs 09.09) and fell to -39.3% on the daily average for September.

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