Dubai: Parents said they are spending less or the same amount as last year on back-to-school supplies as competition between retailers, online deals — and customers’ own budgets — keep prices in check.
Parents have started shopping for school supplies as UAE schools will start opening from September 2 onwards, with almost all opening within the first week.
Last year, prices had generally risen five per cent because of the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) on most products, including school supplies.
The prices are good. If you shop smart — and check online to compare prices between stores — you can get the best deals.
This year, parents said, prices are more affordable as retailers woo customers with deeper discounts and combo packs.
Some retailers are also offering chances to win “school scholarships” worth tens of thousands of dirhams against a minimum spend, which can be as low as Dh100.
Many retailers have set up large colourful “back-to-school” sections, typically near checkout counters, to make it easy to buy all kinds of school supplies from one area.
‘Prices are low’
Pakistani father-of-four Abdul Khaleeq said “prices are low” compared to last year. He spent a total of around Dh2,500 last year but only around Dh2,000 this year.
“Look at this huge school bag [for example]; it’s down to Dh129 from Dh209. [Retailers] are offering discounts, the prices are low; I’ve seen this in other places. And it’s not like the quality is bad for the lower-priced items,” said Abdul Khaleeq while shopping at a popular hypermarket in Dubai recently.
He added that apart from school textbooks and uniforms, he is managing to buy shoes, bags and stationery within a budget of around Dh500 for each child.
Filipina expat Maila Reano said she is spending around Dh250 on each of her two children this year, “which is around the same as I spent last year”. Her total spend for both children is around Dh500, including school bags, shoes and stationery.
“Most stores I checked have special promotions for back-to-school, there’s a lot of choice for customers. The prices are good. If you shop smart — and check online to compare prices between stores — you can get the best deals,” she added.
Some parents, like Indian expat Reshmy Babu, are ordering supplies online instead of shopping at physical stores to save money. She said she saved 30 per cent on a branded backpack. Babu said she also shops in-store for her son (who is in grade five) but finds prices higher on average in-store.
[Retailers] are offering discounts, the prices are low; I’ve seen this in most places. And it’s not like the quality is bad for the lower-priced items.
“We look online for school shopping, there are genuine discounts online. Two years ago, maybe the trend or the trust wasn’t there. But now there are genuine sellers and genuine discounts. I was very happy with my purchase and I got my order delivered for free the next day. I think more parents like me are also shopping online now,” she added.
However, some parents expect to spend more this year. The prices of back-to-school items can vary greatly from store to store and brand to brand.
Ashtami Aju, an Indian mother of two children, who are in grade two and eight, said: “I haven’t finished shopping, but as things are going, it looks like I could go over the Dh1,000 that I had spent in total for my two children last year. I had already bought some supplies during the last school year, in March, as my children needed them at the time. And now I’m buying other items for the new school year.”