NPD: As Kids Returned to School This Spring, Backpacks, Shoes, and Apparel Experienced Mini-Back-to-School Lift

June 21, 2021 – The NPD Group – The typical back-to-school season occurs during the late summer and early fall timeframe, but last year was anything but typical. While many children remained at home for the start of the school year, the traditional back-to-school shopping season was put on hold, for the most part. However, since some students began to return to school after the holidays, traditional back-to-school categories, including backpacks, children’s shoes, and apparel, experienced a back-to-school sales lift, according to The NPD Group (

In the first four months of 2021, the children’s backpack category grew 63% over 2020 and 58% over 2019. Sales remained strong through April. In March and April, adult backpacks – which are often carried by older kids – were also on the rise. This strong growth in backpacks echoes sales increases in kid-related apparel, sneakers, and other categories.

“Starting in January, more schools began to offer traditional learning options, shifting from hybrid or virtual, and kids began to go back to classrooms,” said Beth Goldstein, accessories and footwear industry analyst at NPD. “Combined with the stimulus rollout and an early Easter, this mini-back-to-school season is apparent in the strong performance of these categories.” 

Although certain products experienced a lift during the atypical springtime return to school, Goldstein still anticipates plenty of back-to-school demand in the fall. In fact, two-thirds of consumers with children between the ages of 5 and 18 expect to start the upcoming school year in classrooms again, a percentage that will likely increase as time goes on and more information about school plans is released.

“Assuming that the majority of kids go back to school in-person, which seems likely, consumers should be ready to spend again on back-to-school needs,” added Goldstein. “I don’t anticipate that purchases in the spring, particularly for footwear and apparel, will cannibalize much of the traditional season. When it comes to retail, the positive outlook is that kids continue to grow, so buying new clothing for school is a given.” 

Read more at The NPD Group.