Adapting in August

Adapting in August

Naomi Sleeper
Vice President Continuous Improvement and Strategic Initiatives
Imperial Distributors


As we transition from summer to fall, the impacts of COVID-19 continue to shape our industry. The month of August typically represents Back-to-School and Imperial’s Spring-Summer Seasonal Show. This year, these highlights will look a bit different.

With fall school openings taking a variety of adjusted formats (including delayed start dates, resumed remote learning and new classroom policies and procedures to keep students and teachers safe), the back-to-school retail season is also adapting. Requirements for students to keep their own school supplies—whether at home or in the classroom—means the potential for increased sales in stationery categories (like writing implements, glues & tape, and scissors).

Changes are affecting not only product demand in stores, but also how we identify new products and engage with suppliers and customers across the industry. While Imperial and our retailers typically attend several trade shows throughout the year to find the newest product trends and hot items, these events are being postponed and replaced with online alternatives. Despite the downside of reduced social engagement, these virtual experiences can offer several benefits: elimination of travel, flexible participation windows, and enriched media components.

This month, Imperial is excited to host our first virtual seasonal event to replace our 23rd annual spring-summer seasonal show. While we will miss seeing our retailer, supplier and trade partners in person, we are looking forward to connecting virtually (thanks to embedded live video-conferencing and chat functionality). This format will make our assortment accessible to more retailers, right from their home offices. With video briefings on category trends and key items, educational sessions and product demonstrations, our virtual seasonal event will provide an opportunity for enhanced learning and product discovery.

As we all continue to adapt during this uncertain period, new needs and approaches are driving innovation. As always, the opportunities and challenges are strengthening our industry.