Cost of living struggles evident in back to school and freshers’ week sales

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

As parents and children up and down the country prepare for a new academic year, sales across sub-sectors such as childrenswear and education have seen strong increases in sales at +167% and +131% YoY respectively, most likely related to early back to school purchases of uniforms and textbooks. Yet, the average order value (AOV) for these sectors have dropped YoY (childrenswear by 11% and education by 16%).


Meanwhile, student publishers, including the likes of UNiDAYS and Student Beans, have seen large uplifts in sales of furniture and soft furnishings (+225% YoY) and home and garden (+125% YoY) throughout July, suggesting that new and returning university students are purchasing all the accommodation essentials ahead of freshers’ week.

Insurance was one of the fastest growing sub-sectors for student publishers in July, up +359% YoY. Yet, historically high sales sub-sectors have seen large decreases, with niche womenswear down 45%, YoY, shoes by -23%, and high street brands by -18%. Niche menswear brands experienced a 3% increase YoY.

Joelle Mullin, retail client partner at Awin, commented, “This year’s back to school and university data points to some interesting trends. The sharp increase in insurance through student publishers suggests that rising costs – as well as more nights out on the cards compared to freshers’ week over the last two years - are prompting more students to insure their phones and laptops against damage to avoid having to fork out for replacements.

“Clothing sales also paint an interesting picture. While we largely seeing a decrease in sales volumes across the board, AOVs have sharply risen, with niche womenswear up 59%, high street brands up 53%, and niche menswear up 39% YoY. It’s possible that sustainability-conscious students are opting for less high-volume, fast fashion purchases, and choosing instead to invest in fewer higher ticket items that’ll last longer. And with the popular reality TV show dumping its fast fashion sponsors for the first time in favour of Ebay Preloved, more students could be opening their eyes to greener fashion options.”

Data from the Awin platform found sales up 72% week on week for pre-owned and sustainable fashion advertisers after Love Island’s partnership with eBay Preloved was announced, while traffic demonstrated a significant increase of 103%. During first month of the show, the same advertisers saw a 36% increase in sales compared to May, with traffic increasing by 150%.

Mullin added, “While there may be other factors simultaneously impacting purchasing trends, the latest data indicates that back to school and freshers’ week purchases are yet another area consumers are having to cut back on or be savvier with their money to combat the ongoing cost of living crisis.”