Dubai: Parents in the UAE with kids heading back to schools have some careful budget planning to do with term fees having risen and all of the uniforms, books, gadgets and accessories they need to buy to kit out the children.
Retailers are hoping that these parents will get their sums right and have enough to spend on getting a new laptop or a tablet, trendy sneakers and schoolbags. To do all that, parents need to first factor in the higher sums they will be spending as school fees this academic year.
For the 2023-24 academic year, private schools in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have been permitted to increase tuition fees - the first such hike in 3 years.
In Abu Dhabi, schools can raise fees by a maximum 3.94 per cent, depending on ADEK (Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge) ratings.
In Dubai, certain private schools can do so by up to 6 per cent (according to the KHDA), while in Sharjah, tuition costs can go up by 5 per cent, as authorised by the Sharjah Private Education Authority.
School operators say that the higher fees allow them to invest in additional infrastructure, allow for staff salary hikes, and overcome increased operational expenses. (Businesses across the board have seen increases to their cost of operations, brought on by various factors, not least the ripple effects from the US interest rate hikes.)
Obviously, the higher costs that school managements bear are getting passed on.
Parents are grappling with many other - rising – costs, including spending on transportation, (their kids’) tech needs, uniforms, etc.
Higher school intake
When it comes to admissions, schools in the country are doing well across the board. Dubai authorities recently confirmed their intake for this academic year, recording a sizeable leap from recent years. More schools are opening in the country, with operators confirming immediate and significant interest from parents to get their wards in.
Retailers are making it easy
The ‘Back to School’ promotions are reaching its peak ahead of the schools opening from summer recess next week. Retailers say their promotions are hitting their mark.
And that parents, while exhibiting some caution, are still spending on school needs.
“The UAE retail market on the whole has not been as badly affected by curtailed spending,” said Rajat Asthana, Chief Operating Officer at Eros Group, one of the biggest tech and electronics retailers.
As for tech spending specifically, most students did upgrade their laptops and tablets during COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 times. We cannot expect them (or their parents) to replace the same again so soon. There is a general slowdown on tech spending – however, retailers and tech brands have gone very aggressive this 'Back to School' season with promotions like bigger cash and value back for trade-ins on old devices.
Retailers are also pushing ‘value bundles’ along with straight discounts to sweeten their offers. Retailer sources say there is sizeable offtake in bundled offers, whether that means selling a computer tagged to a printer or monitor. Or schoolbags with water-bottles or other needs thrown into the bundle.
Retailers are seeding the UAE marketplace with Back to School promotions, with 50 per cent offs being the norm. No parent will shy away from spending on a new uniform and other essentials – but retailers believe they have the deals to convince them to spend on discretionary items too.
Kid needs a new pair of sneakers? Noon, the online marketplace, has its Back to School offers extending to ‘fashion essentials’, with a ‘minimum’ 50 per cent off on sportswear and sneakers, and on brands such as Adidas, Puma and Calvin Klein.
Thinking of new eyewear? That’s covered too, with up to 70 per cent off on lens, frames and the like.
This is the theme being played across retailer offerings – ‘If you need something ahead of the new term, we got you covered’. And at prices parent-shoppers can be comfortable with.
“Most parents were expecting to pay higher fees from this academic year – but many may not have factored in that inflation had pulled product prices higher,” said a retail analyst. “Price tags on school needs in 2023 look much different from what they were in 2021.”
It will require some careful budget making. Retailers in the UAE on their part are only too willing to help out…