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Early Word Catches The Sale, Distributors Say

NEW YORK – Like the Christmas creep that brings us yuletide ads in autumn, marketers are pushing out their back-to-school messages ever earlier, sometimes before classes have even let out for summer.

While classroom reminders could incite a backlash from summering consumers, most distributors contacted by TWICE believe that sooner is better when it comes to spotlighting back-to-school tech.

“No matter the season, promotions are naturally occurring earlier across the retail environment,” argued New Age Electronics president Fred Towns. “Buyers are looking to become educated about products early on, so they can learn about the options, color choices and feature sets to determine the best options in time for back-to-school.”

Curt Hayes, president and chief financial officer of Capitol Sales, agreed. “I don’t think there is any harm in overlapping [seasonal] messages,” he noted. “In fact, it often proves to be a benefit for the dealer to boast about products that are applicable to both seasons.”

Dennis Holzer, executive director of the Power-House Alliance, believes shoppers are well beyond being thrown by off-calendar messaging. “Consumers have been programmed over the years to see advertising and promotion of products well in advance of upcoming events,” he observed.

Tate Morgan, president of Petra Industries, was even more to the point. “Manufacturers should be ready with promotions now,” he contended, and begin implementing them in late July. “We’ve had promotional calendars for most vendors in place for back-to-school for some time. Dealers should be planning back-to-school promotions and making buying decisions now.”

D&H Distributing’s education division director Larry Staub also agreed that there’s no time like the present for waving the back-to-school banner. “We suggest retailers attract college students and their families now, while they have it top of mind to visit different campuses, generating ‘buzz’ and interest with intriguing displays,” he said.

By way of example, he cited displays of working 3D printing solutions that some retailers have been deploying to help drive traffic.

Staub also advised retailers to offer a varied bundle of products, from crucial technology to dorm gear such as small appliances, to encourage students and their families to do all their back-to-school shopping at one destination. “It helps to offer a diverse assortment,” he said.