Back to school is one of the busiest shopping seasons for retailers in the UAE. However, this year, shopping for back to school looks very different, amid the pandemic and blended learning.
With schools creating provisions for continuing distance learning throughout the term, parents are rethinking their plans on what to buy for the upcoming academic year.
Regardless of whether children opt for in-class education or study online, they still need supplies to keep learning going and parents in the UAE are ready to spend — but their budgets, preferences and priorities have changed significantly in the previous months. Retailers and brands are responding to evolving trends in consumer behaviour, exploring new opportunities to increase revenues during this challenging time.
Adapting to change
“We place a premium on listening to customers, and go to great lengths to give them exactly what they want,” says Philippe Peguilhan, Country Manager of Carrefour UAE, at Majid Al Futtaim Retail. “We have conducted research profiling our customers to gain a greater understanding of their back-to-school season shopping preferences.”
The study has highlighted a number of interesting results, with customers expressing a preference for contactless payments and more convenient shopping experiences — be it through Carrefour’s online platforms or through its digital services.“Accordingly, offerings have been set-up to make our customers’ shopping experiences safer and easier. Crucially, our study has also shown that more than 70 per cent of customers prefer direct discounts to bundled offers,” says Peguilhan.
We place a premium on listening to customers, and go to great lengths to give them exactly what they want.
While consumers are spending on books, stationery, and art and craft materials, as with every other school year, new items such as hygiene products and remote learning equipment have found their way into shopping carts.
Indian expat, Jyotika S., is yet to decide whether she will be sending her daughters, aged nine and 11, to school or opt for distance learning for the entire academic term. “As we are unsure what the new school year will bring and how children will study in 2020-21, I have decided to stay flexible. This year, I don’t plan to spend much on lunch boxes or uniforms. Instead, I will spend on items such as tablets and noise cancelling headsets, to get ready for a situation where my daughters may have to spend more time at home and depend more on tech than traditional school supplies.”
With health and safety a priority for many back to school shoppers this year, it’s no surprise that retailers have witnessed a rise in demand for sanitisers, disinfectant wipes, gloves, masks and protective gear. Many families are also considering spending on ergonomic chairs, desks, lighting, and storage, to create home learning spaces for children.
Shifting consumer trends
Shopping for back to school is centered on essentials this year and people are shopping conscientiously, seeking value across all product categories, say retailers.
Categories in basic necessities such as masks, sanitisers and gloves are the highest selling right now, along with electronic equipment such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops for online education.
“Categories in basic necessities such as masks, sanitisers and gloves are the highest selling right now, along with electronic equipment such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops for online education,” says Kamal Vachani, Group Director of Al Maya Group. “Demand for home décor products is also strong as children are going to spend more time at home.”
Affordability is the single most important factor currently influencing purchase decisions for most back to school shoppers in the UAE.
High demand for hygiene products
As parents and children are getting ready to go back to school, Dabur says there has been a spike in demand for not just sanitisers but other personal hygiene products such as antibacterial wipes and multipurpose sanitising sprays, says Nisha Ganapathy, Senior Product Manager, Dabur International, which has a range of personal hygiene products under the brand DermoViva.
As parents and children are getting ready to go back to school, there has been a spike in demand for not just sanitisers but other personal hygiene products such as antibacterial wipes and multipurpose sanitising sprays.
“These products will help children protect themselves from infections as well as keep their surroundings germ-free.”
Fine Solutions provides sterilised and antiviral products to both consumers and businesses. Parents are considering Fine sterilised paper products to ensure germ-protected environments for children.
Brands and retailers believe there will be an enhanced focus on surface disinfection and hand hygiene as children resume classes, further expanding demand for personal care and hygiene products. “Fine Solutions provides sterilised and antiviral products to both consumers and businesses. Parents are considering Fine sterilised paper products to ensure germ-protected environments for children. In addition, we have seen an increased demand for Fine Guard masks for children and gloves, which are protected by Livinguard technology that kills viruses on contact,” explains Nedal Zatari, Chief Officer, Fine Solution. “Fine’s touch-free hand towels, sterilised toilet papers, safe-on-food kitchen towels, hand sanitisers and premises disinfection solutions are the top five products for education institutions.”
Sensing demand for hygiene products among back to school shoppers, Carrefour has launched a special hygiene kit that is easy to pack for school. “We are confident that this kit will keep students safe and prevent the spread of the virus at schools,” says Peguilhan.