Back to school: Vendors enjoy sales

HARARE - “Sisi tine mablazer, matie nemashirts evana vechikoro, mirai pano ndinotora anopfeka size ani? Yedza tione mwananangu, hauwone.”

This is the common banter one hears when going around downtown Harare as parents and guardians jostle the streets of the capital in search of bargain school uniforms.

One does not have to ask for assistance. It is readily available from vendors or sales executives as they are now known, who pester parents to buy their products.

Some of the uniforms sold by the vendors have popular school uniform outlet tags on them indicating that either the vendors steal the uniforms or they have employees who provide them with the attire.

A vendor only identified as Gladys, who operates near a popular school uniform outlet, said business has been good despite people not trusting their clothing.

“Our stuff is genuine as you can see. We get it from these shops and sell at a cheaper price so as to attract more customers. Sometimes we buy fabric, and then take it to tailors,” Gladys said.

Though Gladys could not fully come out in the open she hinted on how at times big retail shop workers provided them with uniforms to sell on their behalf and then share the spoils at the end of the day.

Despite vendors littering the streets with counterfeit uniforms, retail shops are awash with customers as people are frantically making last minute purchases of uniforms before the first term begins on Tuesday.

The advent of the New Year and beginning of the school term are only one week apart and some customers were already complaining that they had overspent over the festive holiday.

A survey conducted by the Daily News on Sunday showed that some people were just going into shops to “look around” but would eventually opt for cheaper versions as the money was scarce.

One parent Margaret Fani said she was lucky not to have a child who was starting secondary school as it is the most stressful period for most parents.

“Imagine having a form one child in this US dollar era we are living in. All the money would have been finished at Christmas festivities and the remainder is not enough to buy half of the required uniforms,” Fani said.

Another parent indicated how she had to start buying school attire before the Christmas holiday as she knew the pressure that lay ahead when schools were about to open.

For some foresight is a talent that has been nurtured, while for others the festive period is a time to splurge and ponder about the horrors of the first schooling term when the time comes.

In 2012 parents complained that the situation had worsened as retailers increased their uniform prices from $15 to $40.

2013 seemed no different as prices seemed to have gone up even further as most parents were opting for cheaper shops to lessen the burden on their budget.

Blazers in Enbee and Barbours cost between $55 and $66 while the same item at street vendors selling cost between $45 and $55 depending on the size and school.

School socks cost $3 a pair, while Toughees school shoes cost between $18 and $22, and Weinbreiners cost between $26 and $32 per pair.

School shoes in other stores cost between $15 and $20 depending on whether it is being regarded as genuine leather or “fong kong”.

An employee from Wadee outfitters said business for them was good as they provided the same style uniform but at a more affordable price.

“Most of our uniforms are for schools in the high density suburbs and people flock in here to buy because of the price. The same pinafore in high-end shops costs $30 while here we sell it for $20. One can obviously see the difference,” he said.

Barbours department store’s General Manager Edith Chari said their back to school promotions started towards the end of December as they were cognisant of the pressures of January.

She said their slashing of prices of some uniforms did not compromise the quality but it was done in an endeavour to build a new model of competitive pricing.

“The buying trend of most of our customers has slightly gone down from last year, but in business it is a phase. Though the pricing might have been reduced we still stock quality imported merchandise,” said Chari. - Helen Kadirire

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