Back To Campus – Canada’s Next Retail Event

For years we have been accustomed to signing Christmas tunes in August, as Staples owned the share of voice for Back To School with its “Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” television ads (even though in our opinion they dropped the ball by hiring a B-cast member of “Glee” for the 2011 campaign).

Walking in an RCSS store a couple of weeks ago, I spotted this sign in the General Merchandise section of the store highlighting “Back To Campus”.


Makes sense, lets load up on pots to make Kraft Dinner and some random utensils that will likely never be used by the student but makes Mom feel better as her baby goes off to university.

It seems obvious that someone at Loblaw has been inspired by “Back To Campus” events executed by Target stores – they are the category killer in the United States.

Target has long played in the “Back To Campus” space and is well positioned with its “Tarzhay” positioning and good mix of apparel, household essentials, electronics and health and beauty products. It’s one of the few stores college kids wouldn’t be embarrassed to be spotted shopping with their Mom and Dad.


I give kudos to the team behind the RCSS program as it is meeting a definite need in the market (total university enrollment in Canada is some 1,100,000 students – a nice market niche).

These back to campus students are likely two to four years away from being full fledged “heads of households” and gaining their loyalty now could turn into a lifetime of sales for the retailer and brand.

Canadian retailers have one more “Back To Campus” season before they have to compete with Target in this space. They have to raise their game if the want to stand a serious chance of winning.

Suppliers have an opportunity to bring “Back To Campus” alive through packaging relevant products together into August promotional calendars and building partnerships with complementary products or private label brands such as Everyday Essentials or Joe Fresh Style.

Buy 12 packages of KD and get a free Joe Fresh T-Shirt. What starving student could walk away from that deal?


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