KLAIPEDA - Moms and dads of first-graders may find that getting them ready for the start of school this year will be more expensive than if their child were a more senior student. At least this is what a customer survey reports. With a few days left till the September 1 start, school supply sales have peaked, as have their prices.
First-graders are the most costly
“Like every year, Rimi supermarkets started selling school supplies at the very beginning of August, and we’ve been seeing parents streaming into our stores ever since. Unlike other shoppers, our customers know very well what they need and are not usually too picky. Most parents spend from 50 to a couple of hundred litas a child,” says Raminta Stanaityte-Cesnuliene, spokeswoman for Rimi, a supermarket chain.
To better grasp buyers’ needs, the chain last year surveyed its customers, asking them, among other things, how much money they intended to spend on school supplies. “Most families were planning to spend roughly 310 litas (90 euros), which made up one-tenth of their income. I think the spending will hover at that mark this year as well. Sure, supplying first-graders costs a lot more than for others. Just for one reason: older children don’t need to replace all their ‘school ammunition’ every year,” the chain representative stressed.
The Rimi research has also showed that the more kids in the family, the less is spent on them for Sept. 1. “Thus, those families bringing up one child can allot 250 litas and more for their heir for the school year’s start. Meanwhile, families raising two kids usually spend 200 litas for each, while larger families can afford only 50 litas per child,” the Rimi spokeswoman noted.
Interestingly, families of the same make-up, in the largest cities and in the sticks, spend considerably different amounts for the beginning of school year. On average, those in the countryside and smaller towns spend 100 litas more for the occasion.
Grocery chains retain prices
Valdas Lopeta, spokesman for Iki, another retail grocery chain, concurs with Stanaityte-Cesnuliene on the more-children-less-school-year-expenditure rule, saying, “Elder schoolchildren can do with as little as 50 litas each. When it comes to shopping for first-graders, few parents can pull it off with less than 100 litas.”
He says that most school supply retailers have hiked up their prices, but the retail grocery chain decided to keep them at last year’s level. “Our policy is providing goods at cheaper prices through various discount offers, and they are especially being sought by parents before a new school year,” Lopeta said.
He says most parents swing by the school products department from late August until mid-September. “Only school freshers’ parents exercise a lot of responsibility and tend to buy the stuff as early as possible,” the IKI rep notes.
Olga Malaskeviciene, spokeswoman of Maxima, the largest retail grocery chain in the country, says that the chain didn’t change its school supply prices for over a year. “Our calculations show that all parents can do with as little as 60 litas per schoolchild to handle the burden of a new school year. And when it comes to senior students, quite surprisingly, they do with even less money,” the Maxima representative says.
The reason? “Senior students tend to copy exercise books instead of buying them,” explains Malaskeviciene.
E-sales are surging
It seems that e-stores are slicing off a more significant chunk of the traditional school supply retailers every year. “The e-sales of school goods have surged nearly 30 percent in the second half of August, compared to last year. The e-sales discounts, averaging 40-50 percent, are certainly the main reason for the e-hype,” says Dainius Liulis, director of Pigu.lt, a trendy e-store.
Meanwhile, Ausra Kazanaviciene, market head of Officeday, a large office supply retailer, notes that many school-minded customers drop into the chain stores, but not at retail grocery stores, for one reason: a bigger variety of school supplies and better and more personalized service.
“You won’t have a cheerful and ready-to-assist store assistant come up to you and suggest to help in a large supermarket’s school supplies department. You’ll for sure have one in our stores,” Kazanaviciene maintained to The Baltic Times.
She says the bulk of school expenses go for a decent quality knapsack and school outfit. “These items are particularly important for first-graders and their parents. Senior students cannot care less about these things,” says the Officeday representative.
She, nevertheless, puts the price tag for an average school supply-filled shopping cart at 300-500 litas for younger schoolchildren. “And elder schoolchildren can do with as little as 100 litas,” she notes.
The supplier’s research has revealed that the majority of customers tend to part with 100-300 litas in Officeday stores, as only one-quarter of them leave from 300 to 500 litas in them.
The chain runs 21 stores throughout Lithuania and two of them in Vilnius.
Kazanaviciene notes that sales are slowly, but assuredly, moving into the e-realm. “Until now, the e- school supply sales have comprised only one percent of the sales total, but the number is steadily inching up,” she says.
State supports needy families
Ingrida Martinaitiene, who owns a small office supplies store in Taurage, in the southwest, says that the sales peak has been reached, but that the business will go well until the very end of October. “According to Social Security Ministry regulations, one can apply for social support to the local social welfare departments until October 20. If granted the social allowances, the people may be coming in for school supplies even in November,” Martinaitiene told The Baltic Times.
In Lithuania families with less than 525 litas of monthly income per family member are entitled to receiving such a social allowance. Approximately 22 million litas have been allotted for the unprivileged families’ social support this year. “Roughly 139,000 pupils can count on it this year,” says Rima Kurlianskiene, a representative of the ministry.
“For many families, the support is very important in planning the children’s new school year expenses,” says Martinaitiene.
And what stores- a local Maxima or a local office supplier - are the adults and their smallest offspring likely to come to? “Generally speaking, goods are more expensive in specialized office supply stores, but they edge out local supermarkets on other accounts - personalized service, catering to individual orders and better supply in terms of showcasing their items online, something your Maxima won’t usually do,” says Kazanaviciene. She adds: “Just take the knapsack. The cheapest one costs around 17 litas at a supermarket, but one will have to spend as much as 80 litas in a specialized store. For many customers, that makes a big difference.”
Schoolchildren seek laptops
IT software and computer sellers also rave about the pre-school year sales hype, comparing it to the Christmas sales season. “On average, sales go up 30 percent before September 1. Before, mostly only university and college students would buy laptops or tablets. For the last couple of years, it is not only them, but ever increasing numbers of secondary school pupils who sweep up most of the production,” says Virginijus Jankauskas, owner of a computer and IT software store in Klaipeda.
Besides, secondary schools, he notes, have been lately lavishing spending on new computers, or renewal of their parts. And online computer sales have been rampant during the last few weeks, report the Lithuanian media.