How to promote back to school consignment shopping

Yup, it’s back to school time

A time-honored tradition

When my kids were younger, back to school shopping was big. I mean REALLY big. Whether it was supplies and clothes in grade school; technology and clothes in high school or dorm decor and clothes for college, shopping didn’t come cheap. It was expected that shiny new notebooks and brand new sneakers were the order of the day. It’s no different today. However, in spite of the uptick in the economy, families are struggling. Today’s back to school consumers are looking for bargains. To see their money go farther, they need a little back to school consignment shopping. Now’s the time to show them what you offer.

First things first. Tax-free holidays.

Not every state offers tax-free weekends, but for those that do, be sure to let back-to-school consignment shoppers know you participate. Here’s a list of the states and their tax-free weekends courtesy of The Krazy Coupon Lady. Unfortunately, the Krazy Coupon Lady doesn’t mention that consignment shops are one of the best places to find back-to-school clothes.

  • Alabama: July 19-21, 2019 (clothing, computers, books and school supplies)
  • Arkansas: August 3-4, 2019 (clothing and school supplies)
  • Connecticut: August 18-24, 2019 (clothing and footwear)
  • Florida: August 2-4, 2019 (school supplies, clothing and computers)
  • Iowa: August 2-3, 2019 (clothing)
  • Maryland: August 11-17, 2019 (clothing and footwear)
  • Mississippi: July 26-27, 2019 (clothing and footwear)
  • Missouri: August 2-4, 2019 (clothing, computers and school supplies)
  • New Mexico: August 2-4, 2019 (clothing, computers, computer equipment and school supplies)
  • Ohio: August 2-4, 2019 (clothing and school supplies)
  • Oklahoma: August 2-4, 2019 (clothing)
  • South Carolina: August 2-4, 2019 (clothing, school supplies and computers)
  • Tennessee: July 26-28, 2019 (clothing, school supplies and computers)
  • Texas: August 9-11, 2019 (clothing, backpacks and school supplies)
  • Virginia: August 2-4, 2019 (clothing, school supplies and energy star products)

States like Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon are always tax-free states.

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Back to School promotional ideas

This is one of the best times of the year to create User Generated Content (UGC). With UGC, your customers are marketing for you. Furthermore, you’re gaining credibility when shoppers see others purchasing back to school items from you. Here are a couple of promotional ideas that I came up with for any age group.

  • Take photos of student shoppers holding a dry erase board above their heads. Target sells Speech Bubble Dry Erase Boards for under $20. The idea works for every age group.

Back to school consignment shopping use dry erase boards to market

  • Create a wall that can be changed regularly. This idea requires a little more artistic talent. However, Zazzle offers some great teacher wall decals that would be easy to use. What Mom wouldn’t want to post this? Make sure you add your store logo on the wall too.

school consignment shopping ideas include wall decals

  • Arrange a college fashion show. Invite teens and moms for an afternoon of refreshments and a fashion show. Bella Ella Boutique says the 2019 trends include leggings, faux leather, pleated skirts and popcorn-style cardigans.

school consignment shopping for college age girls

  • Furniture consignment stores host DIY dorm decor evenings. Students learn to maximize their space with vintage wall art, storage and accessories.

back to school consignment shopping should include ideas for college kids

A sales tax holiday is in your resale store’s future

An updated post from 2014

Plan to benefit from your state’s sales tax holiday

Tis the season to save on taxes. To help increase revenue, take advantage of your state’s sales tax holiday. By all means, start promoting it now. Be first and foremost in the minds of parents and shoppers and get ahead of your competition.

Back-to-School season

Many states offer a Sales Tax Holiday before the back-to-school season. Use this weekend to your advantage. Exempt items vary by state. Check the date of your state’s sales tax holiday and what’s included. It’s been predicted this year’s back to school spending will be slightly less than last year’s whopping $83 billion. Once again, apparel and electronics top the list of prospective purchases.

Tap into the college-age market

According to The Motley Fool, the highest amount of money will be spent on college students. National Retail Federation (NRF) Vice President for Research Mark Mathews said, “College shoppers are prioritizing and increasing their spending budgets in essential categories including clothing, furnishings, and shoes.” The oldest of Generation Z are in college now. Their fear of heavy student debt coupled with their eco-mindeness makes them a perfect target for resale. For more information about reaching this younger generation read, How to design your resale store to attract the next generation. Invite students of all ages to a fun fashion show. Bring them back at a later date with a coupon. If you host a fashion show for young ones, include face painting and games. Refreshments for both groups are a must.

Be ready for the sales tax holidaySet aside a special spot in your furniture consignment shop for dorm and apartment-size furnishings. Suggest great pieces like retro lamps and pictures, or show how certain items can be used for extra storage in the dorm. Create a whole section dedicated to apartment decorating with love seats, small chairs, desks and tables. Offer fun decorating tips or even classes for DIYers or students on a tight budget.

Back-to-School isn’t just for students

Remember, you need to creatively appeal to parents and teachers too. Offer special discounts for teachers, adopt a class at a nearby school to collect school supplies or set up a wine & cheese evening for parents to celebrate their little one’s return to school.

Tie in to local school spirit

Almost every school from elementary to college has a Spirit Day and a special mascot. Whenever possible, tie into with clothing and accessories. Sponsor a school ball team. Sell school-related items. Participate in first-day-of-school events, picnics or Teacher Appreciation Days. Inquire about adding a flyer to “Welcome” packets for incoming freshmen. Run a fun contest that pits schools against each other to see which school’s fans are the most loyal. Leverage social media to build excitement around your brand and the school. Create a shop/school hashtag that ties the 2 of you together.

How to get a piece of your community’s back-to-school pie

Back-to-school spending is expected to top $857 billion in 2017

Experts say back-to-school spending will grow by 4% over 2016. That means this month and August are expected to account for 17% of total retail sales for the year. Are you ready? Grab as big a piece of the pie as you possibly can with these back-to-school ideas.

Tax-exempt weekends

Not every state offers tax-exempt weekends, but if your state does, capitalize on it. The 2 biggest purchases at this time of year are clothing and electronics. However, sports equipment and dorm accessories are close behind. Tax-exempt items vary by state so check to see when your state’s tax-exempt weekends are and what’s included.

Don’t forget the basics

Back-to-school checklist exampleAlthough you’re constantly following the latest trends, remember back-to-school shopping is often about the basics. Everybody needs new jeans, tops, sweaters, etc. Create your very own Back-to-School checklists. Here’s an example from Home Ever After for a middle school girl. Create checklists for boys and girls, college students and even teachers. Fill your shop with these items. If there are things you don’t carry, find another local shop to tie-in with who does. Make sure you have plenty of accessories that go along with these basics too.

Put together fun Back-to-School gift baskets

When headed back to school, every student needs notebooks, pens and pencils. It’s easy to put together gift baskets to sell or give away as prizes. If your market is older, create a teacher’s gift basket or dorm essentials. Include a mug, snacks, clothing items, notebooks and a poster. If your market is Moms, put together boy and girl baskets with the basics, but also include fun, educational games or videos. Every basket should have a store gift card as well as a flyer for upcoming events. Consider offering an iPad or Kindle as a grand prize giveaway. Providing a name, address and email is the only way to register.

Capitalize on local school spirit

Most schools, even grade schools have a mascot. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and more as a fundraiser. Trade with your local school to get some giveaway items, or arrange to be an outlet for sales of school spirit merchandise. Offer a percentage of sales for a particular day to go back to the school; agree to promote school events in your shop and/or sponsor a school ball team or drama program. Get involved in your local school’s events, parades, picnics and Teacher Appreciation Days. Community involvement is always a plus.

Back-to-School isn’t just for kids

Throw a fun “You survived the summer” party for parents. Have your event the first weekend after kids are back in school. Offer wine and cheese, or create a tropical theme. Set up a table with adult coloring books and pens. Create “survival” merchandise specials. Make sure the evening celebrates the art of parenting. Or, adopt a teacher at a local school near your shop and collect school supplies. Provide a special one-day gift or discount for all teachers.

Tap into Millennials headed back to college

Millennials (the youngest are still in college), love the idea of being eco-friendly. As students return to your area colleges, provide special incentives for buying secondhand. Host a fashion show or a dorm decorating class. Once again, use the school’s mascot to your advantage.

For more ideas on nabbing those back-to-school shoppers, read How to reel in those back to school shoppers.

How To Reel In Those Back To School Shoppers

Yup, it’s back to school time already

A time-honored tradition

When my kids were younger, back to school shopping was big. I mean REALLY big. Whether it was supplies and clothes in grade school; technology and clothes in high school or dorm decor and clothes for college, shopping didn’t come cheap. It was expected that shiny new notebooks and brand new sneakers were the order of the day. It’s no different today.

However, in spite of what the media says about the uptick in the economy, families are struggling. Today’s back-to-school consumers are looking for bargains. In addition, they’re looking for those bargains online.

Pinterest is the place to be for back to school

According to Crowdtap, almost a third of US adults said they would use Pinterest to not only choose their purchases but organize them as well. Are your back-to-school pins up to date? Remember, the best way to use Pinterest is for selling the vision, not necessarily the product. Show clothing with accessories; display apartment or dorm-size furniture and make sure you tie them with current trends for fashion and design.

Engage shoppers with online contests and promotions

Heyo suggests running a Facebook or Twitter contest to get potential shoppers interested in your shop. Do a “Memories of Summer” photo or video contest; run a hashtag campaign or create a back to school trivia game. Give shoppers an extra reason to pay attention with fun prizes like local school merchandise coupled with items from your store.

Mobile shopping will be strongerBack to school shopping on mobile

For researching products and bargains, mobile will be used by nearly a third of all back to school shoppers. A recent study suggests 60% of parents will be doing some shopping on their mobile phones. Mobile shopping is especially strong with the younger generations which represents parents of younger grade school and middle school students. This means your online marketing efforts such as email need to be optimized for mobile. I always suggest using an email provider such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or iContact. They offer templates already optimized for mobile marketing.

As I’ve already mentioned, Pinterest will be the go-to place for back to school shoppers and interestingly, 92% of Pinterest users view pins on their mobile phones.

In-store shopping remains strong

Let’s face it, back to school shopping is an event and an outing with the kids doesn’t happen online. Don’t let all the talk about the growth of ecommerce and mcommerce (mobile) keep you from enticing customers into your shop. Encourage shoppers with fun contests. Create a “Mom needs a time out” night for busy Moms who are shopping for their kids. Have a fashion show for high school or college age girls. Furniture shops should be highlighting their smaller items, especially those with a vintage vibe. If you’re in a college town, consider a “Decorate the Dorm” night and have on hand a variety of funky lighting fixtures, pictures, side chairs and tables.

If you’re wondering when is the best time to hold a Back to School Event, check your states tax-free weekend and plan accordingly. Be sure to read Are Tax-Free Holidays Beneficial? too.

Are Tax-Free Holidays beneficial?

Find out if those tax-free holidays are right for you

Just when you thought you could relax and enjoy those lazy, crazy days of summer, you realize it’s time for your shop to begin planning for the busy Back-to-School shopping season and a possible tax-free holiday. According to RetailDIVE, consumer spending for the 2015 Back-to-School season will be higher than last year. Nearly a third of households with children ages 6 to 17 and college-age kids plan to spend more this season.

The bad news is…they’re waiting for bargains. The good news is…consignment and resale can begin promoting those bargains now!

Take advantage of your state’s tax-free holiday

Seventeen states plus Puerto Rico are offering tax-free holidays with August 7 – 9 being the most popular one by far. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon are on a “permanent tax holiday.” These five states don’t have a general sales tax at all. Massachusetts offered a tax-free weekend last year and is apparently still debating the benefits for 2015. Clothing tops the list in every state that’s offering a late summer tax break. According to the Motley Fool, households buy 49% more clothing and 45% more shoes during a tax-free holiday.

Does the good outweigh the bad?

The question is, however, do the benefits outweigh the hassles? As you can see, each state offering a tax benefit has different requirements. Some only offer the savings on particular items while others, like Missouri, offer a tax-free weekend for every purchase made, and some states add the burden of determining local taxes vs. sales taxes. The argument is made that families would have made these purchases anyway, they just chose to shop on that particular date. Plus, a tax-free holiday may require additional training for your salespeople, as well as a recalculation in your POS software. (If you happen to be a SimpleConsign user, it’s easy to set all or individual categories to “Tax Exempt” in the system.)

Many shops say the benefits have been tremendous though, even rivaling Black Friday sales. Not only have they seen an increase in sales but there’s been a boost in community goodwill as well. A tax-free holiday puts them on a level playing field with those online shops not required to charge tax. is even participating in those states that are normally required to pay taxes. Some states, such as Alabama, also provide marketing materials to promote the event. Before making a decision, check your state’s requirements and see what other assistance is offered to you.

Some Back to School promotional ideas

Whether good or bad, now is the time to get prepared for the biggest late summer sales event of the year.  A few Back-to-School promotional ideas I gleaned from include offering a special discount for teachers trying to build their school wardrobe; putting up a booth at a local college orientation offering dorm design ideas and even holding a college-age fashion show. “Last Chance” sales are also a good idea at this time of year. They’re a great way to clean out your summer inventory and add a sense of urgency to the shopping season.