Schools closed late this year and would open on January 9, more than a week earlier than in the previous years.
There are queues already at Gem Schoolwear, Durban’s biggest schoolwear retailer. Some parents shopping there came from as far as northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Parents said they did not want to spend money on Christmas shopping, and instead opted to buy school uniforms first.
Zamahlubi Mthimkhulu who travelled from Ladysmith with her son, Thokoza, said his education was more important to her than Christmas shopping,
She said she would buy stationery for Thokoza before spending money on food and clothes.
Mthimkhulu said she was excited that Thokoza would be starting GradeR next year at Tholeni Primary School in Ladysmith.
She said she had spent less than 45minutes at Gem by shopping now, and beating the long queues next month.
Mthimkhulu also said she did not want to risk the possibility of finding her son’s uniform out of stock during the January rush.
“Parents tend to spend money on ridiculously expensive shoes and clothing brands during the festive season, and come January there is no money for school uniforms.
“I will have one less thing to worry about, knowing that my son would have everything he needs for school. From here I am will buy his stationery and them we can start thinking about what we will do for the holidays,” she said.
According to the living conditions survey from Statistics SA, which gives an insight into how South Africans spent their incomes, a household on average spends R2531 per annum on education, which accounts for 2.45% of the total household consumption expenditure.
Some parents said the early opening of schools had inconvenienced them. Thembi Sithole said she would be broke by then.
“No one would have been paid by then. The current economic situation is not good. We have had so many petrol increases and everything went up.
“The worst was not getting a bonus. In my household, it is education first and everything else takes the back seat,” said Sithole.
Her daughter, Amanda, would be in Grade 4 next year at MandlakaZulu Primary School.
Sithole said although it was a tradition to buy new clothes during the festive season, she was paying for priorities first.
Muhammed Pandor, Gem Schoolwear manager, said the long queues started on Friday, soon after most parents were paid.
He said the fact that schools were opening early and most parents not been paid for January would not have a negative impact on them as retailers.
“Parents generally save for school uniforms. Although we always encourage parents to shop early to avoid all flocking in at the same time in January, we expect longer queues after Christmas.”