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Back to School Spending: Retail’s Learning Curve


Target, Walmart and others went head-to-head with Amazon Prime this month to grab their share of early back-to-school spending. According to RetailMeNot, 92% of U.S. consumers were likely to use Amazon Prime Day 2021 (and competitor shopping days) to stock up on back-to-school items. However, it is unclear what percentage of the 250 million SKUs sold fall into the category. In addition, e-commerce is cutting back when we look at a percentage of total sales with Q2 2021 at 13.6% compared to Q2 2020 at 16.1%, showing the need for brick-and-mortar.  

According to a forecast by Mastercard SpendingPulse, back-to-school sales in the U.S. are expected to grow 6.7% from 2019 and 5.5% from last year’s Covid days–roughly estimated at 35.9 billion. With the nation’s cities actively reopening their economies amid CDC activity recommendations, foot traffic to retail corridors will likely increase, with initial data hinting at a 44% increase in visits. The National Retail Federation (NRF) adjusted its 2021 outlook with estimated retail sales between $4.44 trillion to $4.56 trillion.

Recess Is Over

After 18 months of e-learning, students across the board are itching to start the school year anew, sparking a new level of excitement for back-to-school shopping.

Over 64% of back-to-school shopper households expect their students to return to in-person classes. Most students are excited to shop for shoes, apparel and sports equipment, with clothing and accessories at the top of most kids’ wish lists. Analysts project that retailers will see a 78% increase in apparel sales compared to 2020. Back-to-school deals will continue to include tech and electronics, with school curriculums depending on things like “Chromebooks, laptops and smart home speakers” to supplement a hybrid learning environment. Mask requirements fluctuate state by state, making it unclear if parents and their students prioritize PPE supplies.

The Core Subject: Omnichannel Meets Gen-Z

In a recent survey conducted by Waze, a GPS navigation software app, 60% of U.S. consumers intend to make apparel purchases equally in-store or online. A signal for retailers to optimize omnichannel strategies like click-and-collect, curbside pick-up and digital-out-of-home advertising to maintain and increase traffic to stores.

If they haven’t already, retailers will need to up their game on social networks like Snapchat, or TikTok, frequented by Gen-Z, a demographic that holds the purse strings on $140 billion of retail spending power. Afterpay reports that the majority (97%) of Gen-Z shoppers use social media to figure out what to buy, and they are pretty vocal about the platforms they love: 59% percent of Snapchat users expressed how they use the platform as a channel for both inspiration and purchases. The network’s influence isn’t on students alone; 79% of parents on Snapchat refer to posts shared by their family and friends when shopping back to school.

Stay tuned for future posts on upcoming retail insights on store openings and purchasing trends. Follow me on Twitter @anjeesolankiCRE to weigh in on the conversation.

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Anjee Solanki

National Director, Retail Services & Practice Groups

San Francisco


In Anjee’s current role, as National Retail Director for the USA, she has developed strong relationships and strategic leadership to over 500 + retail professional nationally across 140 markets within Colliers for Investment Sales, Agency, Retailer Rep, and Retail Asset & Property Management.

Anjee Solanki brings 30 years of focused retail real estate experience to Colliers International.  She provides strategic retail advisory services to enhance value for her clients with her expertise in lifestyle, community, power center, neighborhood, mixed-use retail/residential, and resort retail. 

She has developed and manages strong working relationships with institutional and private clients such as State of Florida, State of Michigan, Heitman, Invesco, Grosvenor Americas, American Realty Advisors, TH Realty, PNC, and Zurich to name a few.

Her strategy identifies current market and property inefficiencies to capture untapped value through asset repositioning, releasing, redevelopment, rehabilitation, proactive management, and enhanced marketing. 

Creative problem-solving is her specialty, and she becomes a key stakeholder with national and international retailers, such as JPMC, Opry City Stage/Ole Red and Tim Hortons, and many others. Her highly focused approach reduces the risk profile and provides clients with a thoughtful approach executing strategic multi-year planning initiatives. 


Previously, Anjee served as Executive Vice President, Retail Services for Madison Marquette. She successfully assisted with repositioning community centers to lifestyle projects and identified opportunities to create value, resulting in higher returns for her clients. She also provided strategic analysis on complex redevelopment projects to address both the asset’s financial stabilization and/or the client’s exit strategy


Anjee continues to be an insatiable collector of all things retail. She’s a student of culture living next door to future shoppers, whose fleeting trends constantly change the retail landscape … driving retailers, landlords and developers crazy! Read her Blog at: 


Anjee is originally from Southern California and currently resides in San Francisco.  She is active in the Rincon Hill neighborhood residential improvement group, which participates in the public review of the highly anticipated Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco.

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