BJ's Goes Back to School Amid Pandemic

Jacqueline Barba
Associate Editor
Jacqueline Barba profile picture

BJ’s Wholesale Club once again tied in to back-to-school cause efforts from manufacturers such as General Mills, but it was its own P-O-P materials that led the seasonal activity this year.

The season was in full swing by end of June this year to accommodate shoppers during one of the most unconventional BTS seasons yet. In clubs, green back-to-school-themed “Go Back with Big Savings” header signs hovered over clusters of pallet displays stocking related product. At a club in Coral Springs, FL, multiple green and navy, account-specific displays near store entrances stock notebooks, calendars and office supplies from brands like Avery and Wired below a BTS header; while on the other side, branded pallet displays from 3M and Newell Brands also stocked office supplies.

Other notable activity spotted by the Path to Purchase Institute in stores includes:

  • Account-specific “Best in Class for Back to School” pallet displays from Bic depicting lockers and the retailer’s “Go Back with Big Savings” BTS campaign tagline.
  • A branded pallet display from 3M’s Scotch communicating a “When their school year gives you homework, roll with it” message.
  • A light purple and blue pallet display from Hanesbrands' flagship depicting a school bus and stocking no-show socks for girls in purple units and boy’s boxer briefs in blue units within.
  • Account-specific pallet displays stocking notebooks and binders from Avery and the Hamelin Co.’s Oxford.
  • A blue BTS “Go Back with Big Savings” base wrap around a dual pallet display stocking Bayer’s Aleve and Midol Complete.

Online, BTS activity was and continues to be promoted, mostly echoing the same green and navy creative seen in clubs. On the home page, a dedicated “Go Back with Big Savings” leaderboard ad and display ad invites college goers to “start with back-to-school deals on furniture, tech and other campus essentials,” which links to a dedicated BTS shop. The shop groups relevant categories including electronics, campus basics and breakfast & lunchbox essentials to simplify online shopping.

BJ's is also running an incentive activating General Mills' "Box Tops for Education" cause platform, promising shoppers $5 in "Box Tops" with the purchase of two participating products July 16 through Sept. 23. A Box Tops-branded microsite for BJ's shoppers ( and an ad within the aforementioned BJ's BTS shop plugs the offer.

BJ’s rounded out BTS activity with a dedicated catalog for members, instant savings and social media updates including sponsored ads and influencer outreach. Some sponsored social media updates tied in to the current state of limbo the COVID-19 crisis has created by encouraging shoppers to “Work happy from home.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was more of an overlap in seasonal activity at BJ’s than is typical. Halloween candy was fully stocked in branded pallet displays beneath BTS header signs by at least Aug. 1, while at the same time summer and grilling essentials were also still on display. Now, Christmas decor has begun rolling out, while BJ’s annual exclusive list of toys will hit stores and on Oct. 1.

In other news, BJ’s explained in its latest earnings call that it has “turned the corner” and gone from reacting to the pandemic to dealing with it. BJ’s execs expressed relief at how much better the retailer is handling the current state of affairs than it was six months ago. Digital sales grew 300% in the second quarter (ended Aug. 1), and among other things, BJ’s is seeing paying memberships continue to surpass six million and said it has earned three years’ worth of membership enrollments in just one year. The retailer is focusing its energy on new member engagement and targeted marketing. It’s also setting its sights on adding new tech like connected home and at-home fitness equipment.

NOTE: For the full photo audit for this article, visit Path to Purchase Institute members have access to more than 1,260 photos and 160 articles of marketing and merchandising activity at BJ's, along with a full Retailer Profile outlining the chain’s operations and strategies.