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‘It’s going to be an exceptional back to school season’: USPA Global Licensing President

J. Michael Prince, USPA Global Licensing President & CEO, joins Yahoo Finance’s Adam Shapiro and Seana Smith to discuss back to school trends, as spending is expected to reach record highs, and how the pandemic has changed consumer habits.

Video Transcript

- 38 billion, that's the number that is expected to be spent as kids go back to school, and parents shell out big bucks. To talk about where this is headed and what it means for brick and mortar and online retail, let's bring in Michael Prince, USPA global licensing president and CEO. It's good to have you here. And we're expecting back to school to hit a record. Who are going to be the big winners? Is it going to be online, or might brick and mortar finally get its resurrection?

J. MICHAEL PRINCE: Well, it's great that we're talking about back to school. It's been a challenging year for all of us in retail the last 12 to 18 months. But it's going to be an exceptional back to school season. Schools are reopening, so that's great. So there's going to be pent-up demand. I think you're going to see online continue to be strong. But you're also going to see bricks and mortars get a large share of the purchase as well. At the end of the day, people like to go out and shop stores. We're social creatures. And sometimes you just like to try things on in a store, and with a family member or a friend nearby.

But it's going to be a very strong season. And when we think of back to school too, we also think primarily kids. But don't forget the youth, the high school kids, and all these college kids that haven't been on campus for the better part of a year, all coming back to school buying electronic devices, school supplies, home goods, as well as clothing. So it should be exciting times.

- Michael, what about the spread of the Delta variant? And I guess how do you see that potentially affecting consumer spending trends?

J. MICHAEL PRINCE: Consumers are still going to spend. I think it's a very fluid situation. Every day, it's as though we learn something new. Some places are more challenged than others. I'm seeing where some retailers are starting to force mask mandates again within certain stores and in certain regions. But I still think the consumer's going to come out, and shop in a big way. There's also all this stimulus money that's still in the pipeline, and the credits are coming through. That's going to put some extra cash in families' pockets, and they're going to put that to work.

- When we talk about all of the things that are happening and this money getting spent, what do the successful retailers do by expanding, say, their omnichannel presence? How are they doing that?

J. MICHAEL PRINCE: Well, you know you're going to have some retailers that are doing an amazing job. I think of Amazon, I think of Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx. And the sporting goods channels, it's Academy, Dick's, Hibbett's, Foot Locker. What they've done is they're touching the consumer in different ways. And I think we've all learned to work and maybe shop a little differently than in the past.

And you're going to have individuals that just want to shop online. You're going to have individuals that want to shop online and pick up in-store. Or more traditional shoppers that want to go into the store and try things out. And I think the consumers that are going to-- or the retailers that are going to win are going to be the ones that really adapt to individual consumers needs and wants. And that's what we're seeing, we're seeing a transformation in the marketplace, and that's a good thing.

The other thing I want to call out that a lot of folks aren't talking about is don't forget a lot of these kids, the last 12 months, haven't been playing sports. Little league's been canceled or things have been shut down. That's also going to reopen as well, so you're going to have this whole sporting goods momentum that's already been strong, continue to get stronger as all these young athletes, kids, go back and start playing competitive sports again for the season.

- So, Michael, does that mean that we could see some of these stronger consumer spending trends then hold up way past just back to school, it could be over the next several months then?

J. MICHAEL PRINCE: I think it could be over the next 6 to 12 months. I think there's a lot of momentum in this space, a lot of pent-up demand. And as people get back out living their lives, within reason, I think you're going to see that pent-up demand turn into dollars. The other thing that's out there is don't forget a lot of people in the work force worked from home all year long last year. So whether companies are allowing 100% of their workforce back into the office, or it's a hybrid remote model, you're still going to have that consumer workforce as well looking to buy product, buy clothing, as they re-engage with their peers at their companies, and their colleagues, and their partners around the world.

- I had to wear a suit for the first time just the other week, and I was thrilled because it's still fit. I didn't get quite the spread, the pandemic spread, that everyone says we've all-

J. MICHAEL PRINCE: You look good.

- Well, thank you. I look good in a polo shirt. We should point out, by the way, USPA is the United States Polo Association. Really appreciate your being here, Michael Prince, USPA global licensing president and CEO because that $38 billion spend on back to school retail is going to be huge.