2020 Back to School Checklist

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Old Navy

August is usually when the back to school season hits its peak. In this year of the pandemic, the annual shopping event is in for a huge change. With average weekly searches down more than 250,000 compared to this time last year, it’s safe to say that this year will be full of challenges for brands and retailers.

School districts are quickly restructuring their plans for the 2020–2021 school year. Whether that means virtual education, a rotational in-person classroom, or reopening with new rules and regulations, students across the globe are being affected.

According to S&P data, when compared to last year, July imports of kids’ footwear were down 44%, and apparel imports fell 29%. Meanwhile, backpack imports were down 23%, while imports of laptops, a remote learning essential, are up 20%. This change in the numbers makes it clear that product allocation has been adjusted to meet the needs of students heading back to school virtually. Compared to this time last year, Mass, DTC/Specialty, and Contemporary have already realized that back to school are investing less in back to school styles. This shift has left room for Off-Price markets to have more classroom-friendly attire this year than last, with discounts for back to school being high in this segment.

Much like search and market adoption rates are being affected, back to school marketing campaigns and product assortments are also adjusting to this new and unique landscape. Childrenswear brands like Gap and Joah Love, an LA-based company are relying heavily on their playground-friendly face masks to supplement their loss in children’s apparel sales.

Retailers like Target and Walmart are running “however you go back” campaigns that emphasize and empathize with the uncertainty of going back to school. When it comes to adjusting product offering, Old Navy is one of many brands using cheerful patterns and inspirational quotes on comfort-friendly clothing to motivate students in and out of the classroom.

Even though COVID-19 is keeping many students at home, there’s still an opportunity for brands and retailers to take advantage of this essential shopping season. From sanitizers to technology, here’s what the 2020 back to school season is all about.


Tech tools are the new accessory for 2020. With remote learning and homeschooling becoming the norm for many, technology will be heavily relied upon in order to keep kids connected to the classroom. When it comes to streaming classes online, fire tablets (+36% to LY) are selling out fast, as are blue light glasses (+154% to LY), needed to keep their eyes young. To keep kids’ devices clean, Mophie and Casetify created UV smartphone sanitizer and wireless charging cases (+238% to LY).


Safety essentials like face masks are a must this season and with kid-friendly MaskClub, a mask subscription service that garnered over 30,000 average weekly searches in April, students are sure to be safe in style. Students will also want to take advantage of UV sanitiziers (+2,095% to LY), which garnered over 14,000 average weekly searches, and no touch tools (+226% to LY) to stay safe. Hand sanitizer sprays (+2142% to LY) and sanitizer holders (+592% to LY) are backpack essentials for the classroom.


With the back to school budget being redirected at technology and searches
for back to school style -31% compared to last year, children’s apparel companies are hopeful that kids will still need new wardrobes. While kids backpacks may not be top of mind, products that emphasize ease and comfort are. As we enter back of school season, kids loungewear (+85% to LY), a safe bet, continues to have a moment, while slide slippers and activewear are +132% and +52% to last year, respectively.


This back to school season is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and brands are giving kids something to smile about when it comes to what they’ll wear to school, virtual or not. Old Navy is one of many paving the way for this happy-go-lucky aesthetic that includes positive slogans and patterns. From sunshine prints (+37% to LY) to girls rainbow t-shirts (+244% to LY) and all the smiley faces (+17% to LY) in between, this season’s back to school apparel is full of cheery motivation.

For the full Back to School report or to learn more about trends that are growing — and dying, please contact hello@trendalytics.co.

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Harness predictive data to transform the way retailers make decisions. Learn more at: www.trendalytics.co

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