Back to school is anything but cool

You’ve no sooner dressed your Christmas tree, then the shops are advertising pencil cases, backpacks, and lunchbox treats. What gives!?

With the looming threat of Omicron and schools due to open on schedule in January 2022*, consumers are still navigating the rollercoaster ride of living alongside Covid-19. 68% of financially hard-hit South Africans are dependent on competitive pricing, promotions and ‘deals’ to get their back-to-school shopping done. They also have the perception that these correspond with festive season specials in the run-up to the end-of-year break.

There are two distinct waves of back-to-school shopping. The first takes place in December and includes stationery, technology (cell phones, laptops, data and tablets for the privileged few) and sporting equipment, all of which can double up as Christmas gifts. Purchases such as school uniforms, lunchbox food, masks and sanitizers are left for the second wave of shopping in January.

This pattern corresponds with the findings of a 2021 survey of 1 200 South Africans conducted by mass-market retailer Game, which found that 60% of respondents were concerned about where they would find the money to pay for school supplies.

Shoprite and Checkers were found to be the cheapest sellers of school supplies and, according to Business Insider, Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers, Shoprite and Makro are the most popular. And with prices of these goods rising by an average of 16% year on year, the scenario for hard-pressed consumers is not set to ease up any time soon.

*Correct at the time of writing.