The back-to-school period is a profitable time for stores across the country. Mintel estimates that, on average, parents spend more than £100 per child every year on back-to-school items, with only a tiny proportion getting away with less than £50.
But while larger stores cash in, convenience stores can struggle to compete on price and range.
BIC marketing manager Emma Lawley says: "Most consumers see the high street or big supermarkets as the main destination for back to school. But there's an opportunity for the convenience sector to capitalise on last-minute, emergency purchases, or on the products they can't get from the major multiples."
Lawley advises convenience retailers to stock basic core products such as ball pens, handwriting pens, graphite pencils, rulers and maths kits. And while the high street starts stocking stationery as soon as the children break up, she advises conveniences stores to be in less of a hurry and more targeted.
She says: "Although a lot of stores put the ranges in as soon as the children break up, sales data shows the first four weeks are quite low and then sales surge at the end of August."
Staedtler trade sales manager Steve Cook adds: "What happens is the convenience sector picks up the bits either end of the six-week season. Quite often what the mass market misses out on is that it's only once the kids go back to school that they realise what they haven't got, and by then the big stores have moved on to other occasions like Halloween."
And it looks like stationery sales are on the rise. Cook says that after several years of its wholesale business decreasing, sales have levelled off.
He says: "We have a very strong back-to-school brand for the essentials. And what's happening is that convenience stores are concentrating on the essentials without any of the fluffy bits."
New products this year include a learner range, comprising a chunky, striped fountain pen and ink roller with a triangular grip zone to encourage correct grip, and the Noris Club range.
For the back-to-school market is Uni-ball Fusion Flowers which uses 'clear to colour' ink technology (the ink looks clear but writes in colour) and a limited-edition fashion flower barrel. And for a one-stop-shop check out the 10-piece multipack.
Marketing manager Clare Gibbard believes convenience retailers' lack of space shouldn't mean they miss out on back-to-school sales. She points out: "Merchandising solutions can be used to optimise space available. Solutions include clip strips, counter display units and till point displays."
The message to retailers is to target essential items over a shorter period. As Cook says: "The other benefit about the essentials is that they will continue to sell all year round so if they don't sell in the seasonal period at least they have a good chance of selling as standard stock all year round."