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School has begun but shoppers are still hunting for value — technology can help deliver it

School has begun but shoppers are still hunting for value — technology can help deliver it

While some students begin the school year later this week, for many the 2022 school year officially began this morning. But while parents everywhere breathe a collective sigh of relief as they send their children off to class, the cost of this year’s back to school shopping has put a strain on many. With the rise of inflation, gas prices, and the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the buying capacity and the ability to afford school and college supplies has declined considerably for the average household.

2022 back to school shopping spending trends infographic
Rising inflation made back to school shopping more of a challenge for many.

Back to school items were priced 15% higher than a year ago on average, with backpack prices up nearly 12% to an average of $70, lunch boxes rising 14% to more than $25 and notebooks and folders up 31% to $3.74. Along with school-specific supplies like these, office supplies have also seen some of the highest increases among consumer products, with prices for Scotch tape and Sharpies increasing more than 50% over last year.

These higher prices have seen many families making due with less this school year, with many focussing on bargain shopping, purchasing more generic brands, and making do with last year’s items compared to the 2021-2022 school year. But of course, with the high prices that doesn’t mean they’re spending less. In fact, average spending per K-12 student sits at $864 this year, over $160 more than in 2019. What it does mean is that the money being spent simply doesn’t go as far as it did previously, meaning that many still have supplies to purchase even as school begins while price sensitivity among shoppers rises higher than ever.

With 56% of shoppers opting to start their back to school shopping in early July, many clearly anticipated this challenge early on. However, 38% of households report reducing other spending to cover school supplies this year, while 41% of those who abstained from shopping in advance continue to hold out for discounts. 

For many companies looking to address the increased focus on price and value among shoppers in order to attract their business, the rising cost of shipments has made the challenge of providing those savings greater than ever in 2022. Fuel prices are at all time highs, bringing additional surcharges to shipments that eat into profit margins. Consolidating orders to move more products with fewer trucks or improving routing efficiency to reduce the number of road miles in their delivery can help to address this issue, but with shipping capacity remaining low, uncovering those more efficient shipment options remains a challenge.

Traditionally, finding ways to optimally consolidate orders into shipments and put them on the most efficient route with the fewest number of trucks required has been a daunting task that, depending on order volume, could take hours or even days out of the week to plan effectively. Packing multiple customer orders into the most ideal mode allows a greater quantity to be dispatched at once, greatly reducing both the costs for the shipper and the number of road miles — and thereby the amount of fuel — needed to get shipments to their destination. But with many performing this optimization via manual process or through third-party software or spreadsheets outside of their Transportation Management System (TMS), uncovering the most efficient options is rarely an easy task.

Assessing each individual order’s size, weight, locations, pickup and delivery times, and consolidating them onto the most cost-effective and available routes and modes is typically a valuable but time-consuming task. However, with automated tools like Shipwell’s Load Optimization, it can now be completed in a matter of seconds. 

There may not be much that shippers can do to improve gas prices or inflation, but with improved efficiency, it’s possible to significantly reduce the time it takes to plan and route shipments as well as the costs associated with moving them. And with that capability, you can pass the savings on to your price-sensitive back to school shoppers.

For more information on Shipwell’s automated Load Optimization capabilities, click here. Or to speak to an expert about how Shipwell can help you to uncover greater efficiency in your supply chain, schedule a demo today.