It’s mid-January and you are yet to recover financially from the festive season. Plus with children returning to school last week, the costs of stationery, school uniform and school fees are adding up. If your child has just started Grade R or Grade 1; you probably did not expect the escalating cost of sending your child to school.
Apart from the school fees, the most expensive item is probably the school uniform. The annual rising costs of school uniforms in South Africa are putting additional financial pressure on parents to fork out more money to fit out their children.
It will probably set you back over R3500 if not more to fit your child out in the full school uniform, including school shoes and sportswear.
So let me be one of those who are jumping on the band wagon by welcoming a probe by the Competition Commission into school uniform prices in South Africa.
School uniforms create uniformity, a sense of pride and belonging. It also creates discipline whereby all learners look the same. Designs, colours and material of school dresses are specific to each school. Manufacturing costs to produce school uniforms locally increases every year.
A child grows on average 2.5 inches a year; bearing in mind that not all hit growth spurts at the same time. Not forgetting that a child’s feet are continuously growing. Perhaps you are one of those parents who need to buy your child a new school uniform or school shoes every year – depending on how fast they grow.
The above are all coherent and factors to take into consideration when looking at uniform pricing.
I am also well aware of the fact that I signed up to adhere to the school’s mandatory uniform policy, the day when I enrolled my children at their current school. Drafted many years ago. The policy states; all learners must wear the school’s seasonal uniforms. It also states that school branded items like, school bags, lunch bags, beanies, scarves and sportswear is compulsory.
These branded items are available at the school’s clothing shop. Relatively inexpensive, so you won’t break the bank in purchasing it. It is durable and will last for years – that’s to say if your child does not misplace these items.
However, given a choice in the matter between school branded and purchasing these items from any retail store.
What would I opt for?
Guess what, I’ll opt for the school branded items. Reason being, is peer pressure. School branded items like bags, caps and sportswear eliminates competition and peer pressure. Children look what their peers have and want the same. Not everyone can afford purchasing name brands like Nike, Adidas, Karrimor etc.
That is not the issue of my argument.
What really gets my goat is the fact that certain uniform clothing items are branded. By branded items, I am referring to specific school shoes, shirts, pants, underwear and socks and that schools have aligned with certain suppliers. Branded with the schools crest or name. Making it very difficult for parents to source these clothing items from cheaper retail stores.
Last year my daughters’ school changed their winter uniform. Making changes to the style, colour and material of the tunic. The transition period of phasing out the old winter uniform would be 2 years. Making the new uniform compulsory from 2019. Allowing learners who owned the old winter uniform to still wear it. Those who started Grade 1 and all new learners enrolled at the school, had to purchase the new winter uniform.
Discontinuing the manufacturing of the old winter tunic with immediate effect as well as retailing thereof.
All good and well for those who get a longer wear out of their clothing.
Now having a daughter who constantly goes through a growth spurt, it meant that I had to purchase the new winter uniform as the old one was too small. Eliminating the option of the 2 year transition. Plus I had to purchase the new uniform for my youngest as well as the old winter uniform was a hand-me-down from my eldest.
Whilst parents were informed of the change of the winter uniform tunic, we were not informed of additional changes to the winter uniform policy.
The introduction of the new winter uniform required it to be worn with a blazer. Compulsory blazers as part of the school uniform were previously from Grade 4. Worn with both summer and winter uniform. Now with the new winter uniform, blazers are compulsory from Grade 1 but not to be worn with the summer uniform. This meant I had to buy a blazer for my youngest that would only be worn for one season of the year.
How silly is that? A real waste of money.
The tunic style of the new uniform does not compliment all shapes and sizes. Plus the quality is not all that great. The long sleeve shirt is now an open neck and has the school’s logo encrusted on it. Thus making it exclusive. Leaving parents with only two options, either to purchase from a specific retail supplier or the school’s uniform shop.
Now here is where it gets interesting.
The price of the new winter tunic and shirt is rise per size. So the bigger the size, the more you will pay. The old winter tunic had a flat retail price. No rise per size. Purchasing of the long sleeve shirts could be from any retailer. Making it affordable for parents. With blazers now compulsory from Grade 1, these costs range from R570 to R900 depending on the size.
It gets even better.
The big discrepancy in price when purchasing from the school clothing shop instead of the specific supplier ranges between R70 – R100.
Yes a big difference in price, making the school clothing shop the cheaper option. The only problem is, that the school shop does not always have enough stock, leaving parents no choice than to purchase from the specific retail supplier. They also don’t sell blazers, resulting that you need to purchase this from the specific retailer supplier as well.
So how is this possible? Surely there shouldn’t be such a big price difference. Does the school get the uniform directly from the manufacturer at a special cost price? Or is it that the specific retail supplier puts a mark-up on the price for almost a 100% profitability?
Either way, this does not help parents at all.
The probe by the Competition Commission will investigate whether schools are getting kickbacks from manufacturers. The commission want school uniforms to be more generic; making it more affordable. Giving parents the option of purchasing uniform items from various retailers. They want exclusivity of the uniform to be limited to certain items only.
As a parent, I have an expectation that paying more for a school uniform, these clothing items should be durable, of a good quality and that children should at least get a 2 year wear out of it by making it adjustable.
Hoping that a final decision will be made on this and that parents can breathe a sigh of relieve.
I would like to know what your views are on this, feel free to leave your comments.