Back-to-school shopping: Parents spending less in the new normal

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Dubai - More than 93% of parents are looking to purchase at least one item to get their kids ready for school.

By Nandini Sircar

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Published: Sat 29 Aug 2020, 2:39 AM

Last updated: Sat 29 Aug 2020, 2:59 PM

The possibilities of distance learning are influencing back-to-school shopping behaviours as "going back to school" this term could just be a figure of speech.

With parents getting more information on how their schools are operating and how classes will take place, they are adjusting these budgets accordingly.

As per a recent back to school YouGov survey, it's indicated that more than 93 per cent of the parents are looking to purchase at least one item to get their kids ready for school this year.

Furthermore, 53 per cent of the shoppers prefer both physical and online stores to buy the school supplies. About 26 per cent said they would prefer only physical stores, while 18 per cent claim that they prefer only online stores for shopping.
How families anticipate spending
Here's how parents are tailoring their spending for online learning amid the uncertainty.
Lionel Augustine, father of three children, said: "I spend a substantial amount of money every year on buying at least three sets of regular school uniforms and at least two PE uniforms for each child. Each set costs around Dh175. I have three children. So, one can easily calculate that we spend around Dh1,575 just on uniforms. That will be a huge savings this year as Sharjah schools have said that institutions will provide online learning for the first two weeks. Only if the situation improves shall we see children going to schools."
Many parents are not considering buying the school uniform in the near future. This is being considered as a potential saving at least for now, because uniforms that lay unused in the previous term - when classes moved online - only may be used in the new term whenever onsite classes resume.
School uniforms are not compulsory for virtual classes, but pupils are required to wear smart casuals.
In case of course books, Augustine explained his children are open to hand-me-downs and for new purchases the family would opt for more affordable shops. "My children don't mind taking school books that are in good condition from their seniors. We'll also buy other necessary books from the more reasonable stores and not necessarily from the big branded ones, as long as the quality is not compromised," he added.
Purchase of electronic items
Other findings of the report reveal that nearly seven in 10 respondents claimed to have purchased electronics to facilitate e-learning for their kids.

With multiple people learning and working simultaneously in the household, many are shelling out to get everyone their own device.

Pakistani expat in Abu Dhabi, Uzma Tabbassum, who is a teacher and a mother of two, said: "We have made purchases for school reopening. One of the laptops that we earlier had was becoming slow. I have twins studying in the same grade and till now both my daughter and son were using one laptop. But now as I have to return to work, I had to buy a new laptop for my son Abdullah as students of secondary schools will have online learning for the first two weeks. Hence, I had to spend around Dh4,000 buying a new laptop for the upcoming academic session. Otherwise, how will they study?"

Echoing similar sentiments, Canadian expat Mousa Nimer said: "My primary expenses this year would be buying stationery items and I need to make sure that my son's iPad is school-friendly. So, that's a significant cost depending on the model, as gadgets are always expensive."

Mona Chatterjee, mother of a 15-year-old Dubai student, said major expense during this school year are electronic items. "My daughter needed a good pair of headphones, a power bank and a printer. So, I spent around Dh350 on all these minor items apart from a new tablet which cost me around Dh2,000. Other purchases for the new school year include a study table and a comfortable chair where my daughter can sit for long hours while her online classes are on."
New items on purchase list

The influence of Covid-19 is also evident in the types of products parents are planning to buy, as students gear up for the new term after the summer break.
As per the report, 65 per cent of parents surveyed are likely to buy health and hygiene products such as hand sanitiser and masks, followed by stationery items and uniforms.
Zoya Shaikh said: "We are not buying uniforms, undershirts, shoes, tiffin boxes or water bottles. I may buy the uniform's jacket sometime, depending on what the situation is later this year. In the last year, schools shut down in March, so nothing is worn out or needs replacement at the moment. But I am certainly buying masks and hand sanitisers as this year's school list features items that we haven't had to shop for in the past."

Some parents underline a few back-to-school supplies are necessary to keep their wards motivated for a new school year.

Syrian resident Majd Al Khatib said he didn't buy the usual things the way he does every year. "I bought only basic stationery to make the children feel excited about going back to school which is something they have been waiting for impatiently since Term 3 was online. In addition, as we've chosen blended learning, use of stationery and other materials is likely to be far less. Needless to say, masks and sanitisers are in the shopping list, which are the unusual items this year."

Photo: Ryan Lim/KT
Photo: Ryan Lim/KT
Photo: Ryan Lim/KT
Photo: Ryan Lim/KT
Photo: Ryan Lim/KT
Photo: Ryan Lim/KT

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