Educator Consumers Are Chains’ Most Loyal Customers
By George Anderson
Don’t look for any members of the National Education Association (NEA) union to be calling for a boycott of any of the large office-supply chains anytime soon.
Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot have all rolled out marketing programs designed to help educators do their important jobs without having to dig deep into their own pockets to accomplish the task.
During Staples’ teacher appreciation days, the retailer offers coupons with extra savings available only to educators.
Ryan Hoyt, who teaches fifth-grade at Northeast Elementary School in Waltham, MA, told The Boston Globe he spends approximately $200 a year on supplies for his class.
“Getting supplies for free or at a reduced price is very attractive when you’re earning what a young teacher earns,” he said. “It’s smart that these stores, like Staples, have decided to take hold of teachers. It definitely creates loyal customers.”
Chris Duncan, director of retail marketing for OfficeMax, said that the teacher market is too large for any retailer in the office supply business to overlook. “We see teachers as a significant part of our back-to-school marketplace that is underappreciated. There’s a lot of teachers out there, and they spend a ton of their own money.”
According to the NEA, the average teacher spends $1,180 of his/her own money on supplies. There are approximately 3.4 million teachers in the U.S., according to the Department of Education.
Teachers buying supplies from OfficeMax earn a $10 credit for every $75 they spend. The chain also gives teachers a two percent discount when they buy ink and toner.
Office Depot is testing a pilot program at a dozen stores with “Teacher Aisles” filled with supplies needed in classrooms. If successful, the chain intends to roll out the concept nationally. The chain already offers educators a five percent discount on supplies and 15 percent savings on copying as part of its existing Star Teacher program.
One of the chain’s stores in Countryside, Ill. recently ran a teacher appreciation breakfast with free coffee, doughnuts and tote bags filled with supplies. Teachers were also given a 10 percent discount on purchases they made.
“The freebies are really exciting, and the selection of teacher supplies is impressive,” said preschool teacher Sandy Forst. “Most teachers are spending their own money so this is really helpful.”
Moderator’s Comment: Are the office supply chains creating more loyal consumers with teacher appreciation days and other programs targeted to educators?
What practical lessons can retailers take from this story and apply elsewhere in marketing, merchandising, customer service and other areas of their business? –
George Anderson – Moderator