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From Gen A to Gen Z: Back-to-School 2023 Trends​ Your Retail Brand Needs to Know

Pop Quiz: When do parents and students plan to start their back-to-school shopping? It’s time to hit the books and learn the answers with TEGNA’s Back-to-School insights for 2023.  

Meredith Cunningham Published: May 11, 2023
From Gen A to Gen Z: Back-to-School 2023 Trends​ Your Retail Brand Needs to Know image

Here’s a hypothesis: If parents and students plan to start shopping for school supplies as early as July, then now is the time for marketers in retail, finance, education, healthcare, and grocery, to start planning their back-to-school marketing campaigns.

For your campaign to make the grade and bring home an A+, you’ll want to look at today’s research to get educated on your target audience – from Generation Alpha and their parents to Gen Z and Millennials and Boomers continuing their education. Let’s take a closer look at the latest insights and back-to-school 2023 trends to stay on top of this coming season!

Getting a Head Start​ on This Year’s Back-to-School Trends

This year, 56% of back-to-school shoppers will start looking for school and college supplies in early July – despite 88% of consumers still awaiting their official school supply lists. 

Getting a head start is a consumer strategy that lets them find the best deals and spread out their budget. Plus, Amazon Prime Day, typically held during the second week in July, lets shoppers take advantage of great deals as retailers host competing sales. In fact, eight in 10 consumers plan to use mid-July’s sales and events to shop for back-to-school supplies specifically. 

Generation Alpha A+ Cheat Sheet 

With such a focus on Gen Z and Millennials at the forefront of marketing strategies, Generation Alpha – today’s grade schoolers born after 2010 – are leading the way in shaping back-to-school marketing strategies. What do we know about these youngsters? Insights from Shopify and Advertising Week show: 

  • Alphas are at the head of the class, as 3 in 5 of Alpha’s parents say they look to their kids for what to buy when shopping.
  • Alphas are the first generation to grow up in an entirely digital world, and two in three ​8-to-11-year-olds have access to a smartphone. They also have a unique digital savviness due to attending virtual school during the pandemic.
  • Alphas represent the most diverse generation yet. It will be more important than ever to have campaigns focused on inclusivity, sustainability, and social impact. In fact, 50% of parents choose sustainable back-to-school products whenever possible.
  • Alphas are heavily influenced by YouTubers who make shopping or gaming content. Think “Ryan’s World” or “Lankybox.” In fact, 55% of kids aged 6 to 16 want to purchase items displayed by their favorite YouTube personalities. ​
  • Roblox is opening new doors for shopping. The popular gaming platform reaches 24.2 million daily active users under the age of 13, and brands such as Forever21 and the Gap have opened virtual storefronts on Roblox

Economics 101

Although inflation peaked last summer, the inflation rate is still higher than the historical average. According to, school supplies became 7% more expensive, and clothing showed price increases of 18% in 2022. Compared to 2019, the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that school shoppers spent $168 more on average on school supplies in 2022. With this in mind, the back-to-school crowd is crunching the numbers behind their purchases to save as much as possible. 

  • 38% of consumers said they will cut back spending in other areas to cover the cost of school spending. 
  • Brand loyalty is all but nonexistent, as 77% of consumers will switch brands if prices are too high. 
  • Deals, coupons, and discounts motivate consumers when making decisions on back-to-school purchases.

Field Trip

Brick-and-mortar locations remain consumers’ primary point of purchase, accounting for about 70% of total retail sales – and that’s a trend we’re seeing with the back-to-school crowd. ​The NRF also found

  • In 2022, 49% of back-to-school shopping was done in person at physical stores, up from 43% in 2021.
  • The top five back-to-school shopping destinations are online (50%), department stores (45%), discount retailers (40%), clothing stores (37%), and electronics stores (28%).​​
  • Although e-commerce continues to grow at a rate of 10-12% annually, much of the growth is due to multichannel sales (buy online and pick up in-store) that rely on physical stores​

Sound Good? Partner with TEGNA Today! 

If your brand wants to reach the back-to-school audience, now is the perfect time to amplify your creative ideas, smart deals, and showcase great online and in-store sales with TEGNA.  

At TEGNA, we work with 3,000+ retail brands like yours looking to reach parents searching for smart deals. With Broadcast, OTT, and Digital Solutions for retail, your brand will be at the head of the class this coming semester. Contact us to learn how we can help your brand make the grade. Contact us to learn how we can help your brand make the grade.

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