The Who, What, When, Where, and How of School Supply Lists

For an education marketer, is there anything better than having your product requested by name? For some brands, it’s already happening on school supply lists. We recently surveyed PreK-12 teachers and principals on how they compile their supply lists for the $83 billion back-to-school buying season.

Our findings may confirm assumptions, or surprise you, but for anyone looking to better understand school supply lists and to boost their school and consumer revenue, here are some of our key findings from our report: An Inside Look at School Supply Lists.


Teachers are the decision makers. Individually or in grade teams, teachers overwhelmingly compile the products included on school supply lists or wish lists provided to parents. A small amount of schools make decisions at the school or district level, but most still take into consideration the teachers’ input. While a lucky 2% of schools provide all school supplies, most still need to go through the process of creating a supply list each year.
In the report: A breakdown of who makes the decisions, by role.


Educators request specific brands. 73 percent of those surveyed sometimes, usually, or always request specific brands. And keep in mind, lists include items beyond instructional supplies and the traditional brands you may typically find in a classroom, think Crayola, Play-Doh, Elmer’s, Fiskars, Expo, and USA Gold. Educators are also requesting things like tissues, cleaning supplies, and storage supplies from brands like Ziploc, Lysol, and Kleenex. Some even include personal care products (for themselves and also to have on hand for their students) like Tylenol, hand lotion/sanitizer, or hair ties, and organizational/decorative products like labels, command hooks, or magnets. Check out our list of the top 100 teaching supplies on WeAreTeachers.
In the report: How frequently specific brands are requested.


Lists are finalized in the spring. 65%+ of lists are finalized between March and June—not over the summer as many may think. Back-to-school is an almost nine-month season! And now is the time to start your back-to-school marketing. Don’t wait until September to start to introduce teachers to your products: you can offer pilot programs, free samples, free digital instructional materials, downloadable posters, and free lesson plans to build brand awareness throughout the winter and spring leading up to the final purchasing decision.
In the report: What time of year lists are finalized and distributed.


Lists are posted in multiple places. 80 percent of respondents say lists appear on the school or district web site, but partnerships with local retailers are also popular. For example, Walmart makes it easy for teachers upload their school supply list and then make it available to students and parents online or in any Walmart store.
In the report: Suggestions from educators to retailers on making the list-making process easier.

School Supply Lists Retail Partnerships


In other words, how do I get MY brand’s products on supply lists? Our report has answers on that as well. Get your copy of the full report here for free.