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chazAs every parent knows painfully well, when you have school age kids you seem to be continually buying things for them to take to class. And as September approaches, ‘Back To School’ is very big business indeed. The Back To School opportunity for cash ‘n’ carries and delivered wholesalers takes in food and drink items for the lunch box on one hand and clothing, footwear and home stationery on the other.

Mums buy food and drink for the lunchbox week in, week out, making this the biggest part of the Back To School market overall. Food and drink products conceived for school age children have seen a total transformation in the last few years, with the sea change to fewer additives, lower fat, less salt and sugar, natural colours and so on, and in general represent a healthier choice than they did a generation ago, in the 1990s.

Meanwhile mums still do the bulk of the purchasing for the lunchbox as part of the weekly shop, and these items represent a major opportunity for neighbourhood retailers, and the cash ‘n’ carries and delivered wholesalers who supply them, to offer convenience and quality at affordable prices. As parents of today’s school kids will be aware, the recent limitations on advertising products to children mean the ‘pester power’ of today’s ‘kiddie’ brands is somewhat different to their 1990’s equivalents.

And then there’s the kids themselves, of course. One way or another, older primary school kids and secondary school kids have plenty of cash of their own to spend on impulse food, drink, confectionery and other items in local stores on the way to school, at lunchtime and on the way home.

In the non-food area, taking clothing first, even though only 7% of children technically attend fee-paying schools, you still have to buy them clothes for school and there is a substantial cost for all parents associated with sending children there. On average, parents end up spending well over £100 per child every year on ‘Back To School’ items. In context, spending on school wear represents around 20% of all spending on children’s clothes.

Many cash ‘n’ carries make good business out of offering cheap school uniforms, clothing and footwear. Their increased focus on non-food continues to be extremely successful, in the case of stationery encroaching on the sales of traditional stationery retailers like WH Smith. At the same time, with the changing role of technology in the classroom and the need for school kids and families at home to be fully up to date, demand is growing for computer accessories such as bags, memory sticks, printers, ink cartridges and paper. Each of these product areas presents huge opportunities for cash ‘n’ carries to  make profitable inroads into the territory of the office product retailers and PC World, and the brand owners face increasing pressure to do business with them or miss out.

Finally, the immediate prospect of declining pupil numbers is offset for the wholesalers and their retail customers by the fact that – current recession notwithstanding – parents have generally become more affluent and are willing to spend more on their children. So, today’s lesson, class – do your home work on the back to school opportunity, and you’ll get top marks and profits!

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