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Don’t leave it too late to meet online demand in the ‘Back to School’ niche…

If you’re a long time subscriber of mine, you’ll recognise that around this time each year I like to remind you about one of the biggest niche markets there is!

And before all the parents out there do a double take and dismiss this as me simply losing my marbles, yes I do want to talk about ‘back to school’ – even though the summer term hasn’t finished yet, it’s only June and the new school year doesn’t start until September!

If you’re keeping abreast of things you’ll know that it’s really never too early when it comes to planning ahead, as during the past couple of weeks I’ve mentioned Christmas and Halloween on my Facebook pages too!

As an online seller, forward planning is one of the keys to profiting and so me talking about ‘back to school’ in June is actually all perfectly logical…

Why June is the perfect month to sell school items

I’m moving home shortly and so just last week, having had a big sort out of ‘stuff’, I was listing some unwanted bits and bobs on eBay.

Some of the clothing items I wanted to get rid of included some PE uniform items – including a barely used gym skirt.

So, I listed all the items, including the gym skirt and within just a few hours of listing I had 17 watchers and 3 bids on this one item.

Some of the other items I listed at the same time were trailing behind with a couple of watchers and no bids, which I wasn’t concerned about because it’s not unusual with auction format for interest and bids to only gather pace the closer the ending time gets.

But to see that number of watchers and some early bids piqued my interest…which led to my product sourcing hat being firmly put on!

It’s no secret that the ‘back to school’ market is absolutely red hot, but if you want to profit from this market you must get to grips with it early on – and that means planning ahead, way before the long summer holidays kick in.

I have researched this niche previously and exclusively for members of The Source Report and at that time, my findings included the fact that online searches for items such as ‘gym skirts’ and other ‘school uniform’ items in particular start rising very sharply from June onwards – and this is the very reason you should be prepared right now.

The gym skirt I listed sold for just under a fiver plus a P&P charge – and of course, whilst that won’t exactly set the world on fire, brand new and tagged gym skirts, exactly like the one I sold at auction are listed on Buy It Now’s for between £4.95 and £11.99 each and those sellers are achieving multiple daily sales.

If you also consider school skirts and trousers, jumpers, blazers, blouses, shirts, shoes, bags, stationery…you’ve got a huge niche with loads of sub-niches for you to investigate.

Does ‘big niche’ mean ‘big competition’?

It’s fair to say that you might be concerned that if it’s so huge, the ‘back to school’ niche will be too competitive for you to try and get into. But actually it’s not as competitive as you might think.

Due to an increase in sales within this market area in a fairly short period – June to September – many sellers simply avoid it and instead choose niches that they think will bring in an income all year.

However, in my opinion ‘school supplies’ are most definitely not seasonal. School supplies sell all year round!

Several million children are currently in some form of education in this country and with this comes the yearly requirement for new uniforms, items of stationery, textbooks and much more.

So, to make this a year round profitable niche, it’s really important to diversify into different areas within the main niche of ‘School Supplies’ to manage the natural highs and lows that you’ll face throughout the year.

Choose the ‘school’ niche for advantages including:

1. High potential customer volumes

The UK boasts an incredibly high percentage of children who go through the school process. Legally, all children must stay in education until the required age of 18, with many continuing on to sixth form or college.

So, firstly, assuming a child starts school at the age of 4 or 5 and remains in education until they are 18, this equates to 13 or 14 individual school years, each with new requirements in terms of uniforms and school supplies – and if my own children are anything to go by, purchases aren’t just made yearly, but are ongoing throughout!

Now let’s also assume that around the 10 million mark of children are currently within the education system at any given moment, with more entering primary school with each passing year… this should start to build a bigger picture for you; even if you focus on one particular sub-niche of the back to school market you have an absolutely enormous target audience waiting.

2. The opportunity to appeal to parents who love a bargain

This was made plain to me when I sold the gym skirt. 17 watchers and 3 bids within a couple of hours! And you can’t blame parents for being partial to looking for a bargain when it comes to school uniforms and supplies.

Children grow quickly, making new clothes and shoes expensive essential requirements, while different school years often require different uniforms and tools to help children progress, from items of stationery to scientific calculators.

These days, more and more parents are heading online to look for cheaper deals on back to school supplies. This means that your own online store selling school-related items could potentially be very successful.

3. The chance to grow your business using multiple sales venues

Your back to school online store might start off just stocking uniforms for primary schools, shoes for infants or stationery suitable for A Level students, but it doesn’t have to end there. Consider the following ideas for ways to expand your own online store:

  • University and college students may not require a uniform but they still need notebooks, folders, bags, backpacks and various stationery supplies for their studies. With enormous tuition fees to contend with, you will find plenty of these students looking around online for good deals.
  • Your back to school store could be aimed at one particular age group (nursery, infants, juniors, secondary, college, uni) or one particular sub-niche (school shoes, school uniform, school bags, lunchboxes, textbooks, stationery). Digging really deep into a sub-niche and then specialising is an easy way to become an expert and raise your profile as the place to go for supplies relating to your chosen sub-niche.
  • Budget cuts have resulted in many teachers and schools struggling to supply bits and pieces to their classes, so why not aim to fill that need? Think about supplying items to teachers rather than parents. For example, medals and prizes to give out at the end of school terms, sports days and speech days, star charts or badges.

I’ve given you lots of ideas here, but you must ensure that you are organising and listing your back to school stock as soon as possible.

Although most schools don’t break up for the summer holidays until late July and don’t return until early September, it’s the run up to the summer holidays when purchases for the next school year start to gain pace as parents get organised, so start planning your stock now to avoid missing precious weeks of sales.

This article first appeared on Blog | eTail Hub. Read more and comment here