Back-to-school creep isn't going to help retailers who have moved the start of their school-supply sales up as early as June this year, according to at least one analyst.
"The season should not start this early," said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. He told the Huffington Post that retailers are "arrogant" for assuming consumers will buy products as soon as they're available—even if the customers won't need the products for weeks or months. "The fact is, we as people no longer want to invest cash in merchandise to be used at a later date," Sozzi said.
That may sound a lot like the complaints for years about "Christmas creep," in which retail chains keep moving the start of the holiday season up. But it's fairly new for back-to-school. Historically, customers have started shopping—and retailers have started promoting—for back-to-school about a month before school starts. "In seven and a half years, I've never once seen so much emphasis put on back-to-school before July 4," National Retail Federation (NRF) spokeswoman Kathy Grannis told Ad Age.
Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) were already promoting school-related products at the beginning of July. Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) launched its promotions last week. Target (NYSE:TGT) and JCPenney (NYSE:JCP) have slated their back-to-school launches to start in late July. And while Ad Age reported on July 8 that Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) back-to-school landing page had a wisecrack for the back-to-school-creepsters—"Shopping for back-to-school supplies already? We hate to tell you...you're early"—by last week the page was full of school supplies.
National chains do face a legitimate problem: They want to have standard assortments in stores, while schools start as early as mid-August and as late as Labor Day, so some customers (and their kids) see back-to-school displays even before local schools have ended classes for the summer. That's far enough in advance that if a parent buys a child's back-to-school clothes early, a growth spurt could make them unwearable by the first day of school.
But the stretched back-to-school season may work in a way similar to the ever-longer holiday season, according to NRF spokeswoman Grannis: Parents may shop sales early, but leave apparel and specific back-to-school supplies until the end.