Back to school is in full swing (sorry kids) and as the second highest shopping season of the year, here are key trends retailers must capitalize on to stay in the zone.

    Eco-Friendly means merchandise opportunities.  Teen and tween hipsters (and young children of eco-aware parents) will be searching for an old school item: thermoses.  Look for updated products with throwback designs like this one from Pylones from Paris.  Eco-aware backpacks in recycled materials or with natural-inspired designs in denim, native blanket weaves and corduroy will be in with both granola-crunchy boys and girls.  Continued strong appeal for peace signs (yes, I am tired of them too) as well as 1970’s-era characters like Woodsy Owl and Smokey the Bear will rise.
    Technology is on the required supplies list.  Expect USB flash drive sales to continue their annual sales spike as high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools now require them as part of their required items.  USB drives that impart style (shaped like skateboards, sushi or hot dogs) or can be worn as jewelry will be popular.  For back to college, laptops will still dominate tablet sales – but upperclassmen with enough cash will still pop for the tablet for the impact, if not productivity.
    The Sporting Life.  Jerseys and football will be as strong as ever, as long as there is no NFL lockout.  Layered looks like this (ummm, yeah that is my Michigan State alma mater tank being rocked by this fashionista) raises football gear to a new level.
    Mom supplies.  Moms and caregivers will create their own back-to-school mini-boom with their purchases of organizers, juice boxes and new phone and Kindle cases.  Denim stays skinny and moms will be pairing their dark-wash jeans with ballet flats to keep up with the kids.
    SALE prices rule.  With the economy, the NRF reports that 53% of those surveyed say they will shop for sale prices more than in the past.  Retailers MUST carefully monitor competitors, meet prices AND make sure their customers know about their price matching policy.