Back to School 2016 Looms Large for Retailers

Posted on August 24, 2016 by Carm McCormick

Back to School 2016 Looms Large for Retailers

Posted on August 24, 2016 by Carm McCormick

Back to School CBSF

Distressingly for lovers of the season, summer’s drawing to a close and the back-to-school stretch is upon us. For retailers, though, this is the sunniest time of year.

And, says business consulting firm EY, it should be particularly bright in its 2016 iteration.

The market should see a 4.5% jump in back-to-school sales this year over last. That, say EY analysts, is thanks to a combination of the low loonie (which discourages would-be cross-border Canadian shoppers), a relatively strong Canadian economy and governmental child-care contributions, which have put money into the hands of precisely the population who might spend it in this category.

The new Canada Child Benefit, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced to replace existing child-care benefits, will see the average family up by $2,300 a year. This injection is widely expected to nudge a meaningful cohort of Canadian kids above the poverty line, and to stimulate the economy at large along the way.

Still, not all provinces will benefit equally from EY’s prediction, which takes into consideration such factors as province-by-province employment numbers, housing markets and consumer spending habits.

The Prairies, Alberta particularly, are not expected to enjoy the back-to-school boost to the same degree.

On average, Canadian parents will spend $461 on their children for back-to-school booty ($318 for elementary school students, $412 for high school students and $1,630 for university students). That’s $132 more than last year’s average, which was $329, according to a survey conducted by

The ever-extending back-to-school season is also highlighted as an explanation for the bigger numbers. Walmart began marketing the stuff in July, and Toronto mall retailers began their push soon after. Back-to-school shopping queries on the comparison-price website started trending upwards before the middle of July, two weeks earlier than last year. The activity picks up steadily over August—75% of families make their back-to-school purchases that month—and culminates in a Labour Day weekend frenzy.

Here’s what Canadians are planning to buy for back-to-school, according to

  • Clothes: 80%
  • Shoes: 75%
  • School supplies: 74%
  • Backpacks: 61%
  • Textbooks: 44%
  • Beauty/grooming products: 20%.

Back-to-school is the second-biggest shopping season after Christmas, and August is the third-busiest shopping month of the year, after November and December.