NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Amazon (AMZN) has forever disrupted the smooth and steady revenue once generated annually by back-to-school sales. In response, a handful of top retailers are trying new ways to fight back against the online giant and other discounters to win back some of those sales.
But it won't be easy.
Traditionally, back-to-school prompted Mom and the kids to head to the local mall sometime in August to buy school supplies for the coming year. That was before Amazon began offering cheap prices amid the convenience of online shopping. Today, many traditional retailers that once led the back-to-school buying are reducing prices on coveted items in an attempt to regain some of their lost market share.
Walmart (WMT), for instance, is offering savings deals, or "rollbacks," tailored to college students starting on August 1. On Wednesday, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart said it would reduce prices on products such as the Apple (AAPL) iPad 4 with Retina display to $349 (originally $399). Other offers include the Beats Solo headphones for $169.95 (originally $199.95) and Roku streaming device for $39 (originally $48). Walmart said price rollbacks typically last for 90 days.
Walmart had previously said it would offer reduced prices for younger students on at least 10% of back-to-school items compared to last year, and more than 2,000 items priced at less than $3.
More than 400 deals will be featured on Walmart.com on Monday with an average of 35% savings on dorm decor, smartphones, tablets, clothing and backpacks, it said.
Students' tastes have also changed as they wait to check out the latest styles at school before making the bulk of their apparel purchasing decisions. "Back-to-school is starting later and ending later," says Edward Hertzman, founder and publisher of Sourcing Journal, a publication that focuses on the apparel and textile industry. "People are staggering their purchases [as we become a] see now, buy now, wear now culture. We don't buy sweaters in July."
The season is still the second-most-important selling period for retailers behind the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year spending is estimated to rise 3.3% to $74.9 billion from 2013, which includes students in grades K-12 as well as college students, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade organization that represents large discount and department stores, specialty retail stores as well as Main Street retailers.
Of course those retailers that don't have the breadth of an Amazon or a Walmart or the fashion assortment of a Forever 21, for instance, are struggling to lure customers into stores. Here's five retailers losing back-to-school market share.