Making the Grade with Back to School Shoppers

College students always claim to be broke. But there is that one time in the fall when they’ve got a freshly signed check from mom and dad burning a hole in their pocket, and funds from student loans boosting their bank account.

According to the National Retail Federation, college students will spend $55 billion on back to school supplies this year, with each individual spending an average $942. It breaks down like this:

• 187.10 on electronics such as computers, calculators or phones
• $153.32 on clothing and accessories
• $109.29 on dorm or apartment furnishings
• $102.82 on food
• $83.41 on shoes
• $78.70 on personal care items such as skin and hair care
• $69.46 on school supplies such as notebooks and backpacks
• $62.61 on gift cards
• $53.34 on collegiate branded gear

Department stores and online retailers are positioned to grab the bulk of that spending. But a savvy independent retailer, such as a smoke shop, that carries everything from tapestries and posters to decorate dorm walls to “party supplies” and other accessories guaranteed to turn the biggest nobody into the more popular kid on campus, can still get a piece of the action. Here are two tips to get you a grade A in sales.

Deliver the Basics: There are some basic school supplies — pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, backpacks, that virtually every student needs. Offering these products at a discounted rate helps bring customers into your store. There are a lot of great backpack brands, ie Dime Bags and Skunk, that cater to younger tastes. Pens and notebooks aren’t something that a smoke shop normally stocks, but back to school is a great opportunity to offer these necessities as promos branded with your store logo. A quick call to your local promotional [products company will get you set up — don’t forget stickers too. You can sell these items individually, give them away with a purchase (a great sales promo) or even bundle them with a backpack and some rolling papers as a campus survival kit.

Show Your School Spirit: Licensing is expensive and it’s not very likely that you’ll find a vendor with smoking accessories branded with the official logo of your local school. But you can order products in school colors — a great eye-catching promotion for back to school is to set up display decorated with some school pennants and have everything from pipes to grinders in school colors. Silicone smoking accessories are available in a wide variety of colors and are also at an affordable price point. Eyce (eycemolds.com) is a great source as they make everything from spoons to rigs and nectar collectors from silicone — they even have a silicone mold that you can put in the freezer to make some “cool” smoke.

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