Leisure marketing: Forget back-to-school sales. Back to college is where the real money is at.

This year, families will spend an average of $616 to get their college student ready for school.

Back to College is the second biggest shopping season of the year. And over half is spent on leisure brands.

In six weeks, my son Mac goes off to college. Research says my wife and I will spend over $600 getting him ready.

Why should you care that I’m about to embark on the most expensive four years of my life as a parent?

Because if you’re a leisure marketing pro you have a lot to gain by marketing to parents like me.

This year, total spending during Back-to-College season will reach almost $34 billion.

That’s an average of $616 per family. Many leisure marketers think most of that is spent on books and supplies.

But leisure brands get a larger share of that pie than you would think.  Of that $616 average, families spend 64% on leisure brands, including:

  • $237 on electronics.
  • $97 for bedding, microwaves, refrigerators and chairs.
  • $62 on shoes

Families plan different strategies to save money.

  • 34% of parents of college age students said they plan to buy more store or generic brands.
  • 18% said they would shop online more.
  • 53% of incoming college students said they plan to shop at discount stores.

The Back to College shopping season starts now.

  • 20% of college shoppers say they started 2 months before school starts.
  • 33% of college shoppers will begin shopping one month before school starts.
  • 23% will wait until 1-2 weeks before schools starts.
  • 24% will wait until the week school starts or after they’ve already started school.

If you’re a leisure marketing pro trying to appeal to the “Back to College” market, remember these three tips:

  1. Have a “Back to College” promotion, so college families know your brands are made for them.
  2. Visually demonstrate how your brand makes college life more comfortable or convenient, so they understand how your brand helps their college student.
  3. Remember that mom controls the purse strings, but brings her son or daughter to make all these purchases. So appeal to both members of the family.

For more details, check out the National Retail Federation’s 2010 Back to College Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.



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