Retailers also reported that they believe there is a market to grow the volume of locally-manufactured school uniforms, to keep costs down and create job opportunities.
The Mercury surveyed the price of basic school uniform items at Woolworths, Jet, Gem Schoolwear, Edgars and Pep, and found that price increases were either minimal or non-existent.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said the average price increase of items surveyed was 0,7% between the 2018 and 2019 school year.
“We always strive to keep our price increases to an absolute minimum, however there are circumstances which lie outside our control that have an impact on prices such as strong import/export markets, the weakening rand, increasing labour costs and hikes in fuel prices,” she said.
She added that the global price of cotton polyester and leather had also contributed to price increases.
“Based on our long-term relationships with our suppliers, we are able to collaborate to keep prices down and, in some instances, we have negotiated with our suppliers to hold prices, even though prevailing circumstances justify an increase,” she said.
She added that “a large percentage of products” are manufactured locally and in SADC (SA Development Community) countries, and the retailer welcomed the opportunity to increase this percentage.
A spokesperson for Edcon said Edgars and Jet’s school uniform prices had remained the same as last year, and surprisingly, even when compared to Independent Media’s price data gathered in a similar survey two years ago in 2016/17, the cost of many items remained unchanged. The price of white shirts at R69.99 and R79.99 and grey/black shorts at R89.99 and R99.99 for age 11-12 and 15-16 respectively remained unchanged over the past two years, as did the price of girls’ white socks.
“Regarding the manufacture of fabric and the production of school uniforms, all of our fabrics for pants, skirts and dresses are manufactured locally, which has contributed to our competitive pricing and further protects our customers from the exchange rate fluctuations,” he said.
A Pep spokesperson said the retailer had also managed to maintain its prices over the past year, adding that the school uniform manufacturing industry presented an opportunity for local economic growth.
“There is an opportunity in South Africa to grow our local manufacturing platform and create skilled work opportunities,” he said.
Gem Schoolwear in Overport, which competes locally with national retailers in the school uniform market, also managed to keep price hikes low over the past couple of years.
“Although raw material costs have gone up, we managed to minimise the increase,” said Gem Schoolwear spokesperson Yusuf Vanker.
Vanker said the firm was committed to using local suppliers.
“I challenge any business person to prove to me that it is cheaper to import. We firmly believe in using local manufacturers,” he said.