Back-to-school trends week-by-week

Optimize seasonal promotions and gain market share by understanding the products consumers buy week-by-week during the back-to-school season.
John Fetto
5 min read
17 August 2023


Millions of kids and teens across the United States have already returned to school while millions more count the dwindling days of summer. The drawn out back-to-school season means that back-to-school shopping also spans multiple weeks, if not months making it complicated for retailers seeking to optimize promotions.

Grips analyzed our daily revenue metrics for several of the top US e-commerce retailers to better understand the week-by-week priorities of back-to-school shoppers in order to help retailers and brands benchmark their seasonal performance this year and inform their plans for the 2024 season. 

back to school weekly trends


One of the first things we noticed was that back-to-school shopping trends differ depending on the category and, in some cases, the retailer, making the case that a category-specific promotion plan may be necessary to address the changing priorities of shoppers. 

For example, e-commerce shoe sales represented by revenues by Nike, Foot Locker, Van’s, Adidas and Zappos, spiked in late July and early August. Sales on these sites have since cooled off and are now largely posting week-over-week declines in revenue, indicating this was one of the first items shoppers sought to check off their list.

Week over week change in e-commerce shoe revenue 2023 back to school season
Shoe sales began to decline by the second week of August signalling the end of the back to school season for footwear retailers

Office Supplies

Meanwhile, office supply stores Office Depot and Staples have seen a steady (and ongoing) rise in sales from late July into mid-August, hinting at the possibility that folders, pens, notebooks, and other teacher-requested supplies are purchased closer to the first day of class. 

Week over week change in e-commerce revenue for leading US office supply sites
Office supply stores have seen revenue increase steadily week-over-week from late July through early August suggesting that classroom supplies are purchased more heavily in the period just before school begins.

Backpacks and outerwear

The North Face, which generates significant revenue from their backpacks and jackets, saw a slow start to the season with sales up four percent week-over-week in late-July. But from the start of August, e-commerce revenues for the outdoor specialty retailer have increased by double digits each week. Promotions for these categories should pull the trigger by August 1. 

week over week revenue change on during the 2023 back to school season
The North Face, known for backpacks and outwear saw sales take off at the beginning of August, but not much before

Department Stores

Department stores have posted mixed revenue trends this season. JCPenney, for instance, saw a clear uptick in revenues the first week of August (and only the first week of August). Kohl’s, possibly seeking to front-load their back-to-school season, ran their mega Summer Cyber Days sale in early July. However, that rush of early sales has led to week-over-week declines in revenues during the end of July and early August.

Meanwhile, there was no evidence of a strong back-to-school rush on Despite posting slight increases in revenues in late July/early August, sales were down the second week of August. But things could be worse: Nordstrom, interestingly, has posted week-over-week declines in revenue for the last three weeks straight.

Mass Merchants and Warehouse Clubs

Mass merchants like Walmart, Target, which have significant in-store back-to-school sections show no signs of back-to-school having a significant impact on online sales. And the same is true for Amazon. Week-over-week revenues were up or down on the three sites no more than a few percentage points from late July through mid-August. Similarly, Best Buy has revealed no noteworthy gains, but revenues have slowly climbed each week by between one and three percent.  

Warehouse clubs can also benefit from the start of the school year with sales of electronics and lunchbox staples. Interestingly, Grips found that revenues on increased by a respectable 13 percent week-over-week the last week of July and then declined by roughly the same degree the week after. Meanwhile, Costco sales saw a slower burn increasing by two percent in late July and another six percent in early August. However, Costco posted a drop in sales the second week of August and Sam’s posted flat sales the same week suggesting that back-to-school season was short lived, at least online, for these two category leaders. 

week over week revenue change for leading US mass merchants during the 2023 back to school season
Mass Merchants saw little overall impact on revenues from back to school shopping online.


Mattress company Casper seems to be making hay from the college-bound set with week-over-week revenues increasing slowly but steadily since mid-July. Mattress Firm, too, has posted growth during the back-to-school season but sales declined slightly in mid-August. 

week over week change in e-commerce revenue for leading US mattress retailers
Mattress sites saw steady growth week-over-week during the back-to-school season indicating an accelerating market.

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