What will our classrooms look like this Fall?

After an unusual – and unusually fraught – Summer, teachers and students around the country are preparing for the new academic year. Instead of “back to school” photos, sharp yellow pencils, and shiny red apples, a return to school for many will mean logging onto a virtual learning environment, or wearing a mask in social-distance-delineated buildings. Like the grads of 2020 and their unique leavers ceremonies, the next intake of bright young minds is gearing up for a return like no other.

Sales on the Rise

The back-to-school period is traditionally a boom time for retailers. And with the right preparations and adjustments, we believe it still can be. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says it foresees record sales for back to school, despite the uncertainty. Pymnts.com says the NRF estimates are “based on a hybrid schoolyear, one in which parents have to split their bets between students possibly going back to physical classrooms and possibly taking courses online”.

They continue: “According to the NRF, parents with children in elementary school through high school will spend an average $789.49 per family, topping the record of $696.70 in 2019. Spending is expected to total $33.9 billion, up from $26.2 billion in 2019.”

So how can retailers gear up to serve this trend? According to the 2020 Deloitte back-to-school survey, 47% of parents prefer to purchase from those retailers that offer an option to buy online and return to store.

Data from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) says that as many as 82% of back-to-school shoppers will visit a shopping center to make their back-to-school purchases, and 41% saying they like “click and collect” options. Their latest survey says back-to-school shoppers expect to spend $1053 each this year, which is a 10% increase on 2019.

So clearly in-store and online, retailers needn’t fear the season, and those with the agility to offer omni-channel options are starting on the right foot.

A Deal by Any Other Name

Astute shoppers may already have scored a back-to-school deal during Tax Free Weeks last month. In Virginia and Maryland, qualifying purchases include qualified school supplies, backpacks, and clothing. Our business-to-consumer marketing team supported our merchants – like Davis Ford Crossing, Festival at Riva, and Dillingham Square – in spreading the word about these initiatives with digital advertising campaigns and signage.

Retailers and tenants have been so creative in conceptualizing their campaigns this year, with community support and spirit in mind: Like self-defense training franchise Dream Kick (in the Bristow Centre, VA) have started Before/After school programs, with Tae Kwon Do lessons included. Celebree School of Mt. Airy is also offering before- and after-school programs, so parents getting back into the swing of things can rest assured that their kids are cared for. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Walmart, Staples, CVS, TJ Maxx, and a ton of others are committed to giving Back to School 2020 the boost it needs.

Playing Our Part

As 2020 has underlined, though, sales and footfalls aren’t the only things that matter. Not even close! So, we continue to focus on the communities we serve and our relationships with our neighbors.

A cause particularly close to our hearts at Rappaport, is our ongoing support of the communities around Skyland Town Center. The Skyland Development Team has pledged to financially support several schools in the under-served Ward 7 & 8, as a part of the Community Benefits Program for the Skyland Town Center development. This support takes many forms, such as donated art supplies, laptops, and earmarked funds with the D.C. Public Education Fund.

And it is already being put to excellent use by recipients prepping for the semester, including buying math intervention materials, gearing up for virtual learning, stocking a food pantry, and developing e-books, supplementary texts, and other student reading materials.

Some of these donations will be used to provide clothes for families in transition, or – in the case of one school – to fund a peace room as part of their innovative trauma healing practices.

In total, Skyland Development Team contributed $170,000 to D.C. public schools and two libraries near Skyland Town Center.

Good Luck and Learning

So, whether you’re catching a bus or logging onto your classroom, Rappaport wishes all students all the best for the new school year. To borrow some wise words from one of the best:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go”

Dr Seuss

Author Rappaport

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