When Daughter No. 1 was in college, this was the time of year when we’d attempt to stuff half a dorm room into the family minivan.
It usually meant removing one of the two seats in the second and third rows to create a length of space into which we’d cram boxes and tubs and crates filled with clothes, bedding, personal items and more. Daughter No. 1 and her younger sister then would occupy what little room remained in the other two seats, and off we’d go.
Freshman year, I think, we actually may have put the younger one into a seat and then packed around her.
As this late-summer ritual repeated itself year after year, I kept hoping we’d master the chore. We never did — even when it was Daughter No. 2’s turn to head off to college.
These days, though, retailers appear ready to lend a hand, tapping into the millennial generation’s penchant for online shopping and sharing.
Target, Wal-Mart, The Container Store, Bed, Bath & Beyond and others have launched wish-list registries that let the college-bound pick out items for their dorm rooms — everything from decorative light strings and poster frames to pillows and sheets — that friends and family can buy for them as gifts. Target and Wal-Mart even list on their websites registry items eligible for pick-up at a store near campus, which certainly would have helped me in my van-packing days.
The late-summer back-to-school (and college) shopping season is important to retailers: It ranks second in revenue behind what consumers spend during the November-to-January holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. The trade group, which offers an annual outlook on spending for K-12 and college students headed back to the classroom, expects sales of close to $75 billion this year. Spending for college represents $48 billion of that total.
The NRF predicts more online shopping this year, with 45 percent of back-to-college shoppers surveyed reporting they will make some portion of their purchases via the Web, using laptops, tablets and smartphones. They also will use their devices to research products and stores, according to the group, which reminded retailers that “visual imagery and user-generated content can be powerful influence factors” for college kids seeking fashion and decor inspiration online before buying.
The NRF said retailers likely will use social channels like Facebook and Instagram to offer promotions “to these tech-savvy, fashion-forward students.” Mom and Dad won’t be relegated to the sidelines, though; when it unveiled its new college registry in June, Target said it saw the initiative complementing another digital offering that parents might find useful: a subscription service for delivery of items on a recurring basis — think toothpaste, shampoo, soda and chips.
The service is “a modern-day twist on the classic college ‘care package,’ ” Target said on its blog, adding, “Um, where was this when we were in college?”