Back to school spending grows year on year, despite parents’ insistence to the contrary. This time of year is a huge opportunity for larger retailers – the second biggest shopping event of the year – and research shows 83 percent of back-to-school consumers will opt to shop at mass merchants over online or boutique stores. However, that leaves almost 20 percent of the back to school spending market up for grabs. Here’s how to get it.

The number one mainstay of school shopping is lunches. It’s also the most rapidly changing section of the back to school market. The rise of meal prepping and online ordering means school lunches are planned further in advance than ever before, making back to school a vital time for lunchbox advertising.

Bulk packs of products are always a worthwhile investment, but acknowledging parents are meal-prepping changes the way this can be promoted. Parents are preparing lunches with a full meal in mind, rather than small, individually-wrapped elements. This is done to save time in the mornings, but also because millennial parents are concerned with healthy or ‘clean’ eating. A carb, a protein, and vegetables – this is what the modern lunch is turning into.

With this in mind, retailers might reconsider selling bulk packs of crisps in favour of packages of ready-to-cook chicken breast or tofu. Furthermore, these can be cross-merchandised with vegetables, rice or pasta, and lunchboxes.

Parents’ diets primarily influence lunchbox shopping, but children still have a say. Some may consider it unethical to target advertising at children, but a 2015 Turner Broadcasting report showed seven in ten parents were open to their offspring receiving advertising messages as it’s a useful way to introduce products relevant to their child.

One statistic revealed that 37 percent more is spent on a family’s back to school shop when Dads do the shopping. The reasons behind this are mostly conjecture, but the fact remains that encouraging parents to share the back to school shopping duties is a positive for both progressive, modern parenting and retailers’ returns.

A Walmart advertisement featuring a Whitesnake song proved successful with fathers across America, showing that the most primal taps – nostalgia and music – are sometimes the most effective. Another interesting father-related tidbit is that, in general, children have more influence over their choices when it comes to shopping.

The Turner Broadcasting report found that the annual spending power of children in New Zealand was more than $225 million – even more, when considering the influence, they have over parents’ spending. Notably, children were found to influence parents’ choices about food and toiletries instead of the more child-targeted clothing and toys.

Another study found that 67 percent of parents are heavily influenced by their children’s schools’ suggestions for back to school products. Getting on these lists by targeting parent-teacher associations can be a more effective method than targeting individual parents.

It’s not just primary school children who are part of the back to school shopping spree. Retailers should factor in high schoolers and university-aged students, who will likely be doing their own purchasing.

For primary school children, the largest spend is on apparel, but this peters off as students age and purchase their own clothing at different times of the year (generally spending less than their parents would on garments). However, the older students get, the higher their spend on electronics and electronics accessories. Retailers don’t have to stock laptops to take advantage of this – even phone cases and decorations can tap into this market.

Back to university shoppers are more likely to spend online than other students, which gives smaller retailers a chance to take advantage of consumers looking for something a little more niche. Stationery, bags, and lunchboxes with unique appeal are alluring to young adults looking to set up a new identity.

The stationery section has stayed remarkably traditional in many New Zealand stores. It’s time to think beyond the classic A4 lined notepad and PVA glue. With more alternative schools popping up and a full range of subjects available in conventional schools, supplying some form of art and media supplies can be a good choice.

Retailers are not generally in the uniform-selling businesses, but many stores will have a small section for underwear and hosiery. Liaising with local uniformed schools can help ensure this section of stores is stocked with regulation socks and stockings, items students wear through quickly.

With almost 20 percent of the lucrative back to school market still undecided, both online and brick-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity to join the market.

Mobile devices are the best way to target advertising at younger demographics, but it’s also a way for parents to access coupons and discounts that save them money while also encouraging in-store spending. 92 percent of parents of school-age children use their mobile phones while back to school shopping. 69 percent use them to research products, and 41 percent use mobiles to compare prices between stores. Taking advantage of this online presence during the busy season can be a boom for retailers.

Many businesses feel that incorporating an electronic payment service will make customers switch to online instead of in-store spending, but the truth is that electronic payments increase stores’ total number of sales by attracting new customers. Many electronic payment services can be made to offer discount codes, reward points, and coupons, all tailored according to the individual user’s experience.

For back to school shoppers, loyalty and rewards may not be so applicable – but mass merchants can use the data generated by in-store rewards cards to present back to school coupons and discounts.