Back-to-School Ads Before Fireworks? How Early is Too Early?

Okay, we realize that the back-to-school shopping season is — next to the winter holiday season — the most important time of year for retailers, but as infuriating as it is to see Christmas lights in stores before Halloween, we find it equally jarring to see back-to-school ads running between spots for Independence Day sales.

As most families were planning 4th of July festivities, retailers like Apple and Walmart were already thinking about pencils, books, electronics and school clothes, hoping to get an early jump on the $84 billion in sales that back-to-school shopping accounts for in the retail world. But are people really receptive to school-related advertising just a week or two after the last bell rings?

Statistically, most people start stocking up on school supplies three to four weeks before classes begin (i.e. mid-to-late July through mid August). “In seven and a half years, I’ve never once seen so much emphasis put on back-to-school before July 4,” National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis told AdAge.

Since the start of the recession, the NRF has noticed a change in holiday shopping trends — rather than waiting until the last few weeks to shop, many people attempt to space out their spending by starting their shopping early. It’s possible that retailers like Apple and Walmart are hoping a similar trend may appear with back-to-school shopping.

Not all stores are gearing up early, though. Amazon, for example, has taken an all-together different approach, calling out the early birds in a humorous fashion that reminds people to enjoy their summer vacations. The company’s back-to-school page says: “Shopping for back-to-school supplies already? We hate to tell you…you’re early. (Bet the students are happy!” At the top right of the page is a link reading “Soak Up Summer”, which leads customers to a page full of swimsuits, deck chairs, pool floats and other warm weather indulgences.

We’re curious to hear what you think, readers: If you or your family will be back-to-school/back-to-college shopping this summer, are ads for super-early money-saving deals catching your eye, or do you feel corporate greed is interfering with your summer vacation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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