Back to school cheaper than ever (& how to make the most of it)

How to save money buying school uniform

Are school uniforms value for money?

As if children aren’t expensive enough we have to buy school uniforms and all that other stuff! However, I am a fan of school uniforms for a variety of reasons, but it wasn’t too many years ago that it would nearly break the bank to send kids back to school. Prices of many items come down in the last few years. One assumes that it is because of more competition. With more supermarkets, more outlets and more online opportunities, stores are having to be more competitive with inevitable reduction in prices. Good. But could it also be that with their mass purchasing power that they are getting stock cheaper than others and even using as a loss leader. I fear most of us parents don’t care!

Are these items good value for money though? I think so. I have bought school uniforms from supermarkets for the last 5 years and they all last as long as each other. Although you do have to be careful that you are comparing like with like though. For example, one pair of school trousers may be cheaper than another but does the more expensive pair have reinforced knees? I have found from experience that one pair of trousers will be cheaper than the inevitable two….!

What do the supermarkets say about school uniforms?

Sainsbury’s

A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said “We have longstanding relationships with our school uniform suppliers. This allows us to offer choice, quality and value at scale during the busy back to school period and beyond.”

 

Mossisons

A spokesperson for Morrisons said “We offer a 200 day no-quibble guarantee on our children’s clothing. We’re so confident with the entire range that if a customer is not happy with ANY Nutmeg children’s item, for any reason, they can return it up to 200 days after they bought it with proof of purchase.” That is well over your statutory consumer rights too!

 

Are school shoes value for money?

There’s an interesting one. Clarks and Start-rite appear to have the monopoly on parental guilt when it comes to shoes. They certainly don’t last as long as any other supermarket shoe, we aren’t paying for durability! But they do provide us with a width fitting and it is easier to get the half size fitting. However there is little evidence on whether they are better or not for growing feet, who knows? Anything from £30 – £50 for Clarks’ school shoes instead of a supermarket shoe for a quarter of the price? Difficult one and a personal choice but we can at least compromises and buy the less worn P.E. footwear from supermarkets.

A spokesperson for Clarks said “Our price points are based on the high quality, premium materials and manufacturing processes that are used in the creation of our footwear. All of our footwear is also subject to a large number of tests designed to ensure comfort, safety and durability.” I’d like to see the results of the durability tests!!

The rest of the school kit value for money?

When it comes to kit, such as pencil cases and backpacks etc. are they really that different from others. We are only paying for the picture not the quality on there aren’t we? Who is going to know where we bought it and does it matter where most parents are trying to save money on school essentials?

Some tips for back to school shopping:

1) Check the quality of the item before you buy. Give the uniform a pull and a stretch see if any stitching will come undone when worn once!
2) Buy early, try one item and give it a wash before buying others to check how they will last from regular washing.
3) Shop around, use comparison websites for absolutely anything!
4) Buy at the end of term too. Some supermarkets have discounts then and at certain times of the year. And buy ahead as you know those kids will grow! I pointed out to Tesco CEOs when I interviewed them last year that kids don’t grow to term times and we need uniform around the year but I don’t know if anyone is listening!
5) Remember that it doesn’t matter how cheap the items are, you are still covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You are entitled to goods that are of satisfactory quality and that last a reasonable length of time. If they don’t meet this, then take them back with your proof of purchase and gain a refund or replacement (or repair!)

Supermarkets: The good, the bad and the ugly

Supermarkets, love them or hate them, most of us use them. Most of us have opinions about them all too. I surveyed the public and found these top five hates of supermarkets:

  1. Queueing
  2. Rude staff particularly those talking to colleagues when they should be paying attention to the customer
  3. Companies not accepting responsibility – ‘we are sorry, how can we put this right’ not lame excuses or blaming customer
  4. Staff who don’t know what they sell or how things work
  5. Change dumped into your hands with screwed up notes and receipt to follow

There are no surprises here. People just want good service and all these issues relate to the ethos of the company and how well the staff are trained. Interestingly, all the issues that people rate the highest are related to service, not quality, products or prices.

So do prices and quality of food feature when we look at specific supermarkets? Here’s what the public thought, in summary:

SupermarketThe best thingThe worst thing
AsdaPricesCustomer service including the desk not being open when the store is
WaitroseQuality of food and range that you can’t get in other supermarketsOverpriced items that you can buy much more cheaper in other supermarkets
Sainsbury’sQuality of foodCost and the Nectar scheme
MorrisonsQuality of foodOverpriced and shelves often empty of offers
TescoClubcardVariable quality on food products
AldiValue for moneyDisorganisation in clogging up aisles and not enough staff on checkouts
LidlGood fruit and vegHaving to watch “best before” dates as products may often be past these


Supermarket responses

Supermarkets were given the opportunity to respond to these findings. Here are the supermarket responses:

An Asda spokesperson said: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and listening to their feedback is what drives us on to do better every day. We’re grateful for this feedback and will continue to work hard to deliver even better prices, quality and service for our customers.”

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We work to offer consistently good value, which we firmly believe is a balance between provenance, quality and price.”

Sainsbury’s did not provide any comment

Morrisons did not provide any comment

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Clubcard is a great way for us to say thank you to our customers for choosing to shop with us, and we know it’s something they really value. It remains one of the biggest reasons why people switch to shop at Tesco.”

An Aldi spokesperson said: “Our customers regularly tell us that they shop with Aldi for everyday low prices and an enjoyable shopping experience. Our efficient business model means our checkouts are 40% quicker than other supermarkets, which reduces queues and requires fewer staff, saving our customers both time and money.”

A Lidl spokesperson said: “We are proud to have unique measures in place to help reduce food waste in the home. This includes choosing not to print a ‘best before date’ on many of our fruit and vegetable items, instead opting to print a code showing the date that the product was packaged. By not having a ‘best before date’ on certain products, it allows the individual customer to assess the fruit or vegetable product by sight and feel, judging for themselves if it is to their liking.”

In Summary
For 6 out of 7 supermarkets price and quality was the best thing about individual supermarkets. For 4 out of 7 supermarkets, price and/or variable quality of products was an issue and for 3 out of 7 it was the quality of service.

Rewards are clearly becoming more important to customers. Tesco leads the way in this area with its Clubcard, offering the most points per pound and variety of how to spend them. In comparison Sainsbury’s reduced their points value on Nectar in April last year, with fewer choices to spend them on. This clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by customers, given that is cited as the best thing about Tesco and the worst about Sainsbury’s.

Consumers are flocking to the discounters, which do not offer the same range as other supermarkets, so people will not completely stop using larger ones and discounters may need to look at more expansion of their product ranges. Supermarkets need to offer something over and above price. Price wars will have to end eventually and for supermarkets at the cheaper end of the market service is clearly an issue.

Marcus Williamson – editor of the website CEOemail.com which provides contact details for CEOs – says “The number of people seeking contact details for the CEOs of supermarkets is still alarmingly high. This suggests problems with customer services which could be resolved by better training and by empowering staff to make a difference.”

It’s clear that prices and quality form an important part of why people shop at a certain store but  it doesn’t stop them complaining about service nor does it stop people shopping around once prices settle down across the sector. The rise of collect and delivery services will need to also rise to the challenge of providing good customer service.

Shopping habits are changing and service will have to improve dramatically if supermarkets are to retain existing customers and gain new customers.

 

Tesco | Complaining Cow meets Dave Lewis and Matt Davies

And if you have an issue with a supermarket or any other store and want redress, see Top 20 Tips on How to Complain and GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!