School prep

I’ve always been in awe of my parent friends, always busy juggling their work and family lives. Some of them are super organised and do their best to stick to a schedule. Others are more laid back and have a more ‘reactive’ approach to whatever life throws at them. Whatever their method, I admire them all.

And, as I watch most of them counting down the minutes to their offspring being handed back to their hardworking teachers (and while I’m silently dreading the thought of my buses and trains being crammed with the little darlings from next week), I’ve had my eyes fully opened to the preparation going on behind the scenes.

In my clueless mind, back-to-school prep simply meant fresh pencil cases, shoes, bag, and a uniform that can mostly be bought from the major supermarkets. (Should add here that I’m not oblivious to the facts that: a) this list alone is too long for many families in the UK and b) that these costs seriously add up if you have more than one child to cater for.) Note: Reading this back, I realise I’ve not even included a coat in the above list. Like I say, I am CLUELESS. 

What I also hadn’t considered was the rising tech costs to be added to the list. Turns out, a smartphone here, a tablet there, and a laptop over there…has helped make back-to-school spending the third biggest retail spending event after Christmas and Black Friday. Yikes. 

Mintel valued the B-t-S market at £1.16 billion in 2018, an increase of 36% on the previous year’s £855million. Whether we’ll reach those dizzy heights in 2019 remains to be seen; but there are few things to consider rather than simply attributing any gains to forking out loads of money on expensive phones etc.

Pressure (brands)
There will always a place for brands alongside the traditional uniform. And parents will always feel a certain pressure to fork out for the ‘right’ trainers, coats, bags and so on.

Pressure (ethical)
There’s now a bigger spotlight on sustainability meaning that so-called ‘fast fashion’ uniform items bought from the discounters are being overlooked in favour of quality products that will last longer.

There’s a lot of competition from discounters constantly trying to pull in shoppers unable to spend as much on higher quality/longer lasting items.

Convenience and value
Whether it’s buying everything under one roof or from the same website, the less ‘faff’ involved the better. This is why supermarkets do so well at this time of year – and why online retailers will come up with all kinds of incentives (free shipping/returns/gifts) to encourage parents to shop for discounted items at their leisure.

Which brings us to the ‘when’…

In the ‘smug’ corner, are my friends ‘T’ and ‘S’ who bought their kids’ uniforms etc. in July so that ‘it’s all done and we won’t have to think about it until September’.

Meanwhile, erring on the side of caution, are my friends ‘J & N’ whose kids go back to school on Tuesday. They’ve been ‘waiting to see how much they grow over the summer before buying anything’… 

Parents, I salute you.