Winning Canadian Back-to-School Sales Online (Statistics) ©

The Bank of Montreal (BMO) released its Back-to-School Survey results last week, concluding spending will be up by 18.2% (totaling $428) in 2013 by comparison to 2012.  Canadian parents will still be frugal, however, with 95% planning to limit spending on back-to-school items and 35% will have a firm budget.  Quebec will spend the most on school supplies and Ontario will spend the least.

Budgeting strategies noted in the survey that can be leveraged online include:Winning Canadian Back-to-School Sales Online

  • Searching for deals and using coupons (65%)
  • Shopping around to compare prices (62%)

“Retailers that offer loyalty or reward programs offer an added bonus to students and parents who are looking to get the most of their money,” suggests Mike Bonner, Vice President, Commercial Banking, GTA Division, Bank of Montreal.

Online sellers of school supplies, clothing and related technology can use additional strategies to offer convenience, add value and reduce price.

  • Free or low flat-rate shipping.
  • Bonus items (free with purchase, free item with purchases over $X, buy one get one free, etc.)
  • Contests can draw shoppers to your site and social media pages.  Designer backpacks, laptops, and “win your purchase” are just a few possible prizes.
  • Online discounts and coupons (or printable coupons if you have an offline store).
  • Feature price-matching policies prominently.
  • Stock unique or novelty items that Canadian kids just gotta have.
  • Bundle back-to-school products for convenient shopping and offer a great deal on these packages.
  • Donate a portion of profits during August/September to an education or other child-related charity.
  • Provide assurance by offering a guarantee.  If possible, allow returns to an offline store.
  • Offer gift cards or certificates for parents to give to older children and university students.
  • With more than half of Canadian mobile phone users having a SmartPhone, it’s important that your website be mobile-friendly with omni-channel strategies out in full force.
  • We all know why toys are advertised during children’s shows.  Promote your best deals and “gotta have it” items on social media because that’s where the kids are.
  • Make it clear that you are located in Canada and clearly label products made in Canada.  Encourage shoppers to shop Canadian and buy local.
  • Affiliate marketers and bloggers can feature back-to-school sales and coupons from their favourite merchants.
  • Consider selling products to bargain-hunting Canadians via online auctions like eBay or merchant marketplaces like Amazon.

Google Canada reports that back-to-school shoppers did approximately one third of their shopping online in August, 2013, spending an average of $163.  79% of all shoppers searched online for back-to-school items and 89% of mobile users did so.  The top search terms were laptops, phone plans, school supplies, and back-to-school.

The top five Canadian cities for back-to-school searching were:

  1. Brampton
  2. Mississauga
  3. Winnipeg
  4. Calgary
  5. Toronto

Canadian retail businesses can compete online by knowing their market and catering to it.  Price isn’t always the deciding factor in stores and it’s no different online.  We have to be more creative than that if we want to corner the back-to-school market in competitive cyberspace.

??? Are you competing for Canadian back-to-school sales this year?  Please share your experience in the comments below.

Retailers to Benefit as Canadians Spend More This Year on Back-to-School Shopping: BMO
Google Canada Think Insights

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Canadian Digital Behaviour for Businesses (Statistics)
Canadian SmartPhone Shopping and Ad Response (Statistics)
Affiliate Marketers Reveal 2013 Top Networks, Income and More (Statistics)


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon is an internet entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in a wide range of online business models, backed by a formal business education and enhanced by training and mentorship. She has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available from all major ebook retailers.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on,,, and, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Bernadette Tienne

I’d like to see this info a little earlier next year but it’s a good post.

Derek Halifax

Our website will be ready for the 2014 school year. CAN’T WAIT!


I get a kick out of companies that have back to school sales when the product has nothing to do with kids or school. lol any excuse to make a sale.


WOW MELODY! Your posts are so indepth and helpful to Canadian entrepreneurs. I too believe we can compete on more than price. Reputation is huge! I need to trust a business when I order and I trust Canadian businesses more.


I never gave much thought to back to school advertising but tried it one year and got a ton of hits. Parents are googling like crazy this time of year. Great advice.