SCENE + HEARD: Today's Read As Inflation Rises, Back to School Season Kicks Off By Gwendolyn Plummer Friday, July 15, 2022 8:30 AM Some ECPs are already taking to social media to remind patients to schedule their back to school eye exam, like New York City’s Metro Eye. Image via metroeye on Instagram NEW YORK—Inflation has been at the forefront of most everyone’s minds recently, as prices of goods and necessities rise across all industries. But even with rising prices, there are some non-negotiables: most timely, back to school shopping. This week, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that one third of consumers “said they are cutting back in other spending areas to cover the cost of items for the upcoming school year,” and that most families are expecting to spend more than usual this year, due to continuously rising prices. The NRF’s president and CEO Matthew Shay explained, “Families consider back to school and college items as an essential category, and they are taking whatever steps they can, including cutting back on discretionary spending, shopping sales and buying store-brand or off-brand items, in order to purchase what they need for the upcoming school year. The back to school season is among the most significant shopping events for consumers and retailers alike, second only to the winter holiday season.” Notably, the NRF found that many back to school shoppers are starting their shopping earlier than usual, hoping to find the best deals and spread out purchases. As of early July, more than half of shoppers had already started shopping for school supplies. The National Retail Federation found that back to school spending is expected to rise this year. Chart via National Retail FederationFor the optical industry, this a timely reminder that it’s never too early to get started on those back to school eye exams—if parents and families are already buying backpacks and notebooks, it’s worth reminding them to refresh their child’s prescription as well. Although many have already started their shopping, the NRF also reports that 85 percent of shoppers said they still have at least half of their shopping remaining. Sales are playing a role in this back to school season, too. 81 percent of those surveyed said they planned to take advantage of deals during the week of July 11 to shop specifically for school and college items: 62 percent planned to shop Prime Day deals on Amazon, 31 percent planned to shop online deals at other retailers and 20 percent planned to shop in-store deals at other retailers. Many retailers have picked up on the value of planning their own sales at the same time as giants like Amazon, and there’s benefit to offering deals where you can after Prime Day, too. Back to school exams and frame packages, or similar deals, could be a great way to make sure kids come in to get their eyes checked before the start of the semester. While it might feel like summer just started, it really is never too early to get in the back to school groove. There’s no better time than now to start reminding parents and patients about the importance of a pre-semester eye exam, refreshed prescription and, if possible, a new pair of glasses. Getting ahead of the game could help patients, ECPs and everyone else involved avoid time crunches, price hikes and unnecessary stress.