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Back to school shopping frenzy

Back to school uniform shopping in full swing at Gems Schoolwear in Overport last week. Theo Jeptha/ African News Agency (ANA)

Back to school uniform shopping in full swing at Gems Schoolwear in Overport last week. Theo Jeptha/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 11, 2022


LIFESTYLE - BACK to school shopping is in full swing as the 2022 academic year is on our doorstep with uniform and stationery suppliers reporting increased business compared with last year.

The new school year will start on January 12 for inland schools. These include the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces.

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Coastal schools, which include KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and the Western Cape, will start on January 19.

When the POST visited Gem School wear in Juniper Road, Overport, last week, the store was packed with parents trying to get all the necessary items for their children.

The store stocks locally-made uniforms from Grades RR to 12 for more than 200 primary and high schools.

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Nomzamo Mbokazi said she bought three pants, three shorts, three pairs of socks and a pair of shoes and undergarments for her son Ayabonga,12, a Grade 8 pupil at Overport Secondary School.

Nomzamo Mbokazi, assists her son, Ayabonga, to try on a pair of school shoes. Theo Jeptha/African News Agency (ANA)

Mbokazi, a waitress, said she had started saving from her November salary for uniform and stationery purchases.

She said she spent about R1 400 for the uniforms and shoes and had budgeted R1 000 for stationery.

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"I still have to get a jersey and a blazer, which I will do in the winter season. I will get some of the basic stationery such as books, pens and pencils in the coming days and once we get a stationery list from the school then I will get the balance.

"It has been a very challenging year, especially financially as the industry I work in was gravely impacted, but I made sure to prioritise my child’s school requirements first. I started planning early, so I made Christmas clothing purchases earlier in the year and in November I could budget for the uniform and stationery. I will also need to budget for his transport and other expenses in the new year,” she said.

Shantal Pillay said she spent between R1 400 and R1 500 for school attire and accessories for her daughter Ria Nadia, 9, a Grade 5 pupil at Collegevale Primary School. She bought two dresses, two pants, a tracksuit, and socks. Pillay said she would purchase school shoes closer to reopening.

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Shantal pillay assists daughter, Ria Nadia, to try on her school dress. Theo Jeptha/ African News Agency (ANA)

“Children’s feet grow quickly, so I would rather wait a little longer, instead of having to buy another pair in a few weeks or months because she has outgrown them.”

Pillay, who is part-time employed, said buying uniforms and stationery was a priority and she tried to do her back to school shopping soon after the festive holidays.

“We cannot compromise when it comes to our children and making sure they are fully prepared for the school year. At times, it does come with making sacrifices on other luxuries.

“However, my daughter is very understanding, and had even said that instead of buying her something for doing well in school last year, I must get her uniform and stationery first. So I am blessed that I have a child who is enthusiastic about learning,” she said.

Pillay said she would spend about R600 on stationery.

“I don't really budget, but I do visit a wholesale store which has every stationery item at reasonable prices but still good quality. I will probably complete the shopping by next week,” she said.

Muhammed Patel, a manager at Gem Schoolwear, which is 53 years old, said business had improved compared to the previous year.

Trenisha Bhanjan helps sons, left, Kearen Naidoo and Keuren Naidoo, try on blazers. Theo Jeptha/ African News Agency (ANA)

"We have seen a promising start this week, and had a steady stream of customers. We find more parents are excited for the new school year and are optimistic it will be better than the previous two years where there were many interruptions. They are also confident that it will be a complete year of schooling and are making full uniform purchases.

“We are averaging about 200 to 300 families a day, but expect about 500 to 700 families coming in per day from mid-January. We also have our online store, which we introduced at the start of the pandemic, which is also doing quite well."


Some parents are hoping to start their back to school shopping in the coming days.

Rehana Hornsby, says she does not do bulk shopping and buys when her children need new uniform items during the year.

Her son, Mikah, 12, a Grade 7 pupil, and daughter Farah, 8, a Grade 3 pupil, both attend Penzance Primary School.

“I try not to do any bulk shopping at the beginning of the year to ease the burden of huge costs, and in the event of the children having a sudden growth spurt. I also try my best to make them use uniform items from the previous year to save on costs.

“This year, I don't intend on spending much as they will be using uniforms from the previous year. However, I may need to purchase a few new items such as socks and sneakers for physical education. I budgeted around R500 and will do whatever school shopping a few days before school reopens.”

Hornsby, an accountant, said she had already purchased stationery, which cost about R900 for each child.

“I try to do the stationery purchases early from the (school) stationery supplier which also enables me to take up a discount offer. However, I also try to see how I can save, as some unused stationery can be carried over from the previous year,” she said.

Dravina Ramai, said she will start shopping soon for her son, Deniel Jordan, 16, a Grade 10 pupil at Trenance Park Secondary.

She said she had a budget of about R750 for his uniform and stationery.

“I hope to get at least one new pair of pants, two shirts, a few vests, socks, a belt and shoes for my son. I usually start saving from July as I earn very little. I am a single parent and collect a child support grant, which does not cover most expenses as the cost of living is very high.

“I am also hoping that a lot of the stationery from last year can be used as the children did not go to school everyday. So this will help me save a bit,” she said.

Excited parents, Khatija Shaik and Hamid Shaik help their daughter, Tasmia, try on her uniform as she is about to start secondary school. Pictures: Theo Jeptha/ African News Agency (ANA)

Raksha Pooran, who is unemployed, said she would start shopping for her two children, Shayden Chinnsamy, 12, a Grade 6 pupil and Shaina Chinnsamy, 7, a Grade 1 pupil later this week. Both children attend Kamalinee Primary School.

“I have a budget of about R2 000 for uniforms and stationery, which I cannot go over, so it means no lavish or extravagant spending.”

Pooran said for her son, she will buy three shirts, two pants, a shorts, T-shirt, undergarments, socks and a pair of school shoes. For her daughter, she will buy three dresses, a petticoat, undergarments, socks, a shorts, T-shirt and a pair of school shoes.

“My husband and I find it difficult to purchase now due to high prices and (our) unemployment but we make sure our children have what they need for school as the education is a stepping stone to success,” she said.


Last month, the POST visited Alert Stationers situated in Dr Yusuf Dadoo Street, central Durban.

Pranesh Behari, the CEO of the 35- year-old stationery supplier said they had also seen an increase in orders in their stationery pre-pack services, which they provided to 15 schools across Durban.

Pranesh Behari, CEO of Alert Stationers, and employee Sphumelele Mkhize prepare stationery orders. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

"In the previous year, we suffered a 66 percent loss, but we are on the road to recovery. For the 2022 academic year, we had orders from all our schools. The orders ranged from anywhere between 50 to 200 stationery pre-packs per school, so it has definitely been better than last year.

"We also expect a peak in sales in January, as we often have many walk-ins. We generally can get between 40 to 50 walk-in customers a day and up to 120 customers a day just before the school year commences. Some either want a full-pack of stationery or basics, like the 72-page books, pencils, and glue sticks. So we are optimistic for the new year and hope it continues so we can fully recover as we were severely impacted over the past two years," he said.


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