A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

Back to school necklace – a dark side of back to school online searches

I was doing some research this week into online searches in Australia for back to school products, so that I could offer some insights to newsagents who rely on this vital retail season. I was shocked to discover that back to school necklace was searched more than back to school.

I thought why all this interest into back to school themed jewellery. But then I searched back to school necklace for myself.

Back to school necklace references a noose, meaning to some despair they feel about returning to school. I was shocked. There are news stories about this going back several years.

I am shocked at my ignorance about this situation and the risk it poses to so many. I am glad to now know a bout it at least.

Back in the day, back to school was fun, packed with hope and plenty of excitement in shops like newsagencies. Kids and parents were the focus. Now, with many competitors in a crowded space, all the noise is about price. The season feels much less personal today than a few decades ago.

I’m not a psychologist or a qualified counsellor but I do wonder if all of us in the back to school space can benefit from understanding the anxiety some feel at returning to school and offer some form of support and encouragement for all returning to school. I know in my case our in-store engagement will change based on what we now know.

While it may not feel commercial to focus on how people feel and supporting those who may be anxious about returning to school, it could be that doing this is differentiating such that it is valuable.

In a practical sense, I am suggesting a back to school pitch that is fun, encouraging and supportive … happy. Maybe not this year as that season is close to done, but for during the year or ahead of next year.

Our local retail businesses can provide an oasis experience for shoppers, leaning into happiness and optimism. Local small business retail can do this well, many do.

Being aware of the darkness of the back to school season felt by so many provides us an opportunity to offer them a safer space into the future.

There are many resources online offering access to professional advice on anxiety and other mental health challenges relating to school and back to school. I have found Beyond Blue and Headspace particularly helpful for reading and understanding.

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