Back to school (marketing)

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For other uses, see Back to school (disambiguation).
Several people shopping in an area with high shelves on the right stacked with spiral notebooks and other stationery products in open yellow boxes. At the top of the shelves are several blue signs with a small stylized starburst logo in yellow and "Everyday Low Price" in white text, on a red background. Strip fluorescent lights on the ceiling illuminate the scene; a yellow sign hanging from the ceiling has an octagon with "back to school" and text in English and Spanish beneath it. On the left are shelves reaching camera height; a sign in the front bottom says "$9.97".
Back-to-school sale at a Walmart

In merchandising, back to school is the period in which students and their parents purchase school supplies and apparel for the upcoming school year. At many department stores, back to school sales are advertised as a time when school supplies, children's, and young adults' clothing goes on sale. Office supplies have also become an important part of back to school sales, with the rise in prominence of personal computers and related equipment in education; traditional supplies such as paper, pens, pencils and binders will often be marked at steep discounts, often as loss leaders to entice shoppers to buy other items in the store. Many states offer tax-free periods (usually about a week) at which time any school supplies and children's clothing purchased does not have sales tax added.


The back to school period of time usually lasts from mid-July through early/mid-September, before the school year starts in the United States, Europe, and Canada. In Australia and New Zealand, this usually occurs in January, while in Malaysia, this period lasts from late November to December. In India, the back to school sales traditionally start in the month of June when schools are about to open. In Japan, which is unusual in that it starts its school year in spring, the back to school sales are traditionally held in late March.

In the United States, back to school shopping is a way to associate Labor Day in the first Monday of September, a widely observed holiday but one with no inherent celebrations, with a shopping tradition, much as Memorial Day is associated with summer products and Thanksgiving has been associated with shopping for Christmas gifts. Labor Day has since become symbolic as the unofficial "end of summer", since most schools and colleges begin their school year around that time.