Don’t leave it too late to meet online demand in the ‘Back to School’ niche… No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles! As a parent you could be forgiven for reading my ‘back to school’ headline and doing a double take! The summer term hasn’t even finished yet, it’s only mid June, the new school year doesn’t start until September and already I’m talking about ‘back to school’ – what’s going on Well, as an online seller, forward planning is one of the keys to profiting and so me talking about ‘back to school’ in June is all perfectly logical… Just last week, having had a big sort out of clothes, I was listing some personal bits and bobs on eBay. Some of the clothing items included some PE uniform items – including a barely used gym skirt. So, I listed all the items, including the skirt and within just a few hours of listing I had 17 watchers and 3 bids on this one item. Some of the other items I listed at the same time were trailing behind with a couple of watchers and no bids, which I wasn’t concerned about because it’s not unusual with auction format for interest and bids to only gather pace the closer the ending time gets. But to see that number of watchers and some early bids piqued my interest…which led to my product sourcing hat being firmly put on! Now, it’s no secret that the ‘back to school’ market is absolutely red hot, but if you want to profit from this market you must get to grips with it early on – and that means planning ahead before the long school summer holidays kick in. I have researched this niche previously and exclusively for members of The Source Report and at that time, my findings included the fact that online searches for items such as ‘gym skirts’ and other ‘school uniform’ items in particular start rising very rapidly from June onwards – and this is the very reason you should be prepared right now. The gym skirt I listed sold for £4.08 plus a P&P charge – and of course, whilst that won’t exactly set the world on fire, brand new and tagged gym skirts that are exactly like the one I sold at auction are listed on Buy It Now’s for between £5.95 and £11.95 each and those sellers are achieving multiple daily sales. And that’s just for gym skirts! Now consider school skirts and trousers, jumpers, blazers, blouses, shirts, shoes, bags, stationery…this is a huge niche. And it’s not as competitive as you might think It’s fair to say that you might be concerned that if it’s so huge, the ‘back to school’ niche is far too competitive for you to try and get a foot in the door. But actually it’s not as competitive as you might think. Due to an increase in sales within this market area in a fairly short period – June to September – many sellers simply avoid it and instead choose niches that they think will bring in an income all year. However, in my opinion ‘school supplies’ are most definitely not seasonal items like, for example, Christmas decorations or paddling pools. School supplies do in fact sell year round. Schooling is something that the vast majority of people within the UK must go through. Several million children are currently in some form of education in this country and with this comes the yearly requirement for new uniforms, items of stationery, textbooks and much, much more for those several million. So, to make this a year round profitable niche, it’s really important to diversify into different areas within the main niche of ‘School Supplies’ to manage the natural highs and lows that you’ll face throughout the year. Here are some of the advantages. 1. High Potential Customer Volumes The UK boasts an incredibly high percentage of children who go through the school process. Legally, all children must stay in education until the required age of 18, with many continuing on to sixth form or college. So, firstly, assuming a child starts school at the age of 4 or 5 and remains in education until they are 18, this equates to 13 or 14 individual school years, each with new requirements in terms of uniforms and school supplies. Now let’s also assume that around the 10 million mark of children are currently within the education system at any given moment, with more entering primary school with each passing year… this should start to build a bigger picture for you; even if you focus on your own small geographic area or one particular sub-niche of the back to school market you have an absolutely enormous target audience waiting. 2. The Opportunity to Appeal to Parents Who Love A Bargain! This was made plain to me when I sold the gym skirt. 17 watchers and 3 bids within a couple of hours! And you can’t blame parents for being partial to bagging a bargain when it comes to school uniforms and supplies. Children grow quickly, making new clothes and shoes expensive essential requirements, while different school years often require different uniforms and tools to help children progress, from items of stationery to scientific calculators. These days, more and more parents are heading online to look for cheaper deals on back to school supplies. This means that your own online store or eBay shop selling school-related items could potentially be very successful. 3. The Chance To Diversify And Grow Using Multiple Sales Venues Your back to school online store might start off just stocking uniforms for primary schools, shoes for infants or stationery suitable for A Level students, but it doesn’t have to end there. Consider the following ideas for ways to expand your own online store:
  • University and college students may not require a uniform but they still need notebooks, folders, bags, backpacks and various stationery supplies for their studies. With enormous tuition fees to contend with, you will find plenty of these students looking around online for good deals.
  • Your back to school store could be aimed at one particular age group (nursery, infants, juniors, secondary, college, uni) or one particular sub-niche (school shoes, school uniform, school bags, lunchboxes, textbooks, stationery). Digging really deep into a sub-niche and then specialising is an easy way to become an expert and raise your profile as the place to go for supplies relating to your chosen sub-niche.
  • Budget cuts have resulted in many teachers and schools struggling to supply bits and pieces to their classes, so why not aim to fill that need? Think about supplying medals and prizes to give out at the end of school terms, sports days and speech days, star charts or badges.
Don’t Miss Out! I’ve given you plenty of ideas here, but you must ensure that you are organising and listing your back to school stock as soon as possible. Although most schools don’t break up for the summer holidays until late July and don’t return until early September, it’s the run up to the summer holidays when purchases for the next school year start to gain pace, so start organising your stock now to avoid missing precious weeks of sales.