As usual, I have a family gathering after the feast prayer to discuss together how we will spend the feast holiday, and where we will go. I am a journalist and I have three married sisters, but this year the discussion was completely different as it was under the slogan of “back to school”.
Every mother began to talk about her suffering story with buying the school tools for her children. In an attempt to convince the other that the place where she bought the tools is the best place with the most suitable price in light of high prices as they bought from different places.
The preparation for the new school year represents the seasonal concern of the family, but this year the concerns are doubled as back to school season cope with the feast which requires more financial expenses. This put pressure on the family budget, and increases the numbers that are calculated as negative
As a single girl I have no interest in this discussion but as a journalist I was interested in some points during listening to their stories and I asked myself many questions that I tried to find their answers through every buying story.
Mothers differed in places of purchase, but they agreed that there is a great increase in the prices and that they don’t have option except to buy.
Despite the high prices, Samir and Ali still maintain some of its customers
There is nothing more than the libraries in Egypt, in each street and district, we find the traditional libraries opening their doors, but when we talk about the products quality and variety, we will find that the choices are limited, Samir & Aly is one of these choices, and by these words Basma Ahmed began telling us her buying story
Ahmed is a housewife and has two children, girl in primary three and a three-year-old boy.
She said that she always buys the basic needs from Samir & Aly before the beginning of the school then if she needs any other thing she buys it from any small library. Ahmed expressed her anger from the high prices saying that the most expensive thing this year is the school bag as its price ranges from EGP 450 to EGP 750.
More over Ahmed pointed out that she doesn’t cogitate on buying from Al-Fagala as it is always crowded, adding that the transportation costs that will be paid make the price of Al-Fagala the same as Samir & Aly.
She also doesn’t depend on the on line buying because she has a bad experience with it.
She added that she thinks the quality of the copybooks in Samir & Aly is better than any alternative.
Meanwhile, Hend Ali, a grandmother and has four grandchildren who are in primary four, primary eight, primary two, primary one agreed with the opinion of Ahmed, adding that she suffers from the international school requirements which are available only in the big libraries.
In the same context, Ahmed Abd el-Fatah, the marketing manager of Samir & Aly, said that this year the international schools that deal with Samir & Aly decreased their supply list to include only the basic needs due to the jump of the prices.
Abd el-Fatah said that the prices jumped more than 100% compared to the same period last year due to the increase of the dollar price from EGP 8 to EGP 18 and due to the 40% increase in the customs taxes.
Samir & Aly clients depend more on the imported products explaining that the market depends on 80% imported products while 20% local products, according to Abd el-Fatah.
Abd el-Fatah stressed that Samir & Aly is trying to ease the burden of the families by making special offers and by making initiatives like the discount card that gives discount for 3 categories , those who buy with EGP 50 to EGP 150 will have a
5% discount while those who buy with EGP 150 to EGP 300 will take7% discount and finally those who buy with more than EGP 300 will have 10% discount.
He added that this card is available in all the branches of Samir & Aly throughout the year.
The card will give extra discount 7% to all categories from 15 to 30 September, meaning that the category that take 5% discount will have 12% instead, etc.
This offer will be active a week before the school begins and will end after a week from the beginning of the schools, according to Abd el-Fatah.
The marketing manager of Samir & Aly pointed out that the prices of the copybook this year range between EGP 3.5 and EGP 7.5 depending on the copybook’s number of papers, while the pencil case prices begin with EGP 40 .
Also the school bag prices range from EGP 600 to more than EGP 1,000.
While the local production pens range of EGP 1 to EGP 1.5 moreover the Chinese pens range of EGP1.5 to EGP 3 and the prices of German and Japanese pens are more than EGP 3.5.
Abd el-Fatah concluded that the budget to buy the basic needs for one child will be EGP 500 while the budget for one child to buy everything will not be less than EGP 1,000.
People begin to resort to Al-Fagala as a solution to face the high prices
In contrast with Ahmed and Ali, Heba Alaa, who is a mother for two twin girls in primary six, said that she goes to Samir & Aly with her twins to know the prices and the shapes that they like in the pencil cases, sharpeners, etc., then she goes alone to Al-Fagala to buy the nearest thing to the shape they have liked due to the great difference in the prices between Al-Fagala and Samir & Aly.
Al-Fagala is a name of a street or area which is the center of selling the helping books and the educational tools not only in Cairo, but also across all Egypt, but the question is whether Al-Fagala still retains its throne of being the center of buying the school tools in light of the high prices? Do people begin to resort to it as a solution to face the high prices?! How much is the difference between Al-Fagala prices and other libraries prices? What is the difference in the prices between the small libraries and the street vendors and exhibition in Al-Fagala?
All these questions were answered through the second buying story that was told by Abeer Hassan, head in the Ministry of Finance that has three children, in primary one, six, and three.
Hassan continued that it’s her first time to buy from Al-Fagala as she always buys from big libraries.
I found that there is EGP 1 difference between Al-Fagala and other big libraries in the copy book’s price, so I will save EGP 10 in the package of the copybooks, according to Hassan.
She thinks that the prices jumped more than 30% this year, saying that she bought copybooks by EGP 700 and a ruler by EGP 2.15 Instead of EGP 1 last year.
Hassan puts a budget for every child this year to buy the school tools worth EGP 2,500.
She added that the privilege in Al-Fagala that there are variety of qualities and prices.
This was also explained by Ahmed Abd el Tawab, a teacher and has two children, saying that he buys the good qualities for school consumption and the less quality to be used during studying at home.
My sister pointed out that people talk with each other in the street due to their displeasure from the prices so she tries to tell us some of the stories that she has heard during her tour in Al-Fagala.
People complain about the high prices and the merchant’s greed even in Al-Fagala
Meanwhile, Omou Somaya complained from the high prices of the copybooks, saying that she has three children (grade one, four, eight) and she hopes to divide the copybook to three copybooks to provide her children by the basic need which is the copybook.
In contrast, Yossra Aly thinks that the most expensive thing this year is the helping books explaining that the books increased EGP 10 suddenly this year.
Why do schools ask the children to buy wire copybooks, I think I didn’t use it until I was in college, by this words Nancy Ahmed who is a doctor in El Asr El Aini Hospital expressed her dissatisfaction from the abnormal requirements of her child’s preparatory school. She also said that she was surprised by the limited turnout of the people to buy things from Al-Fagala, pointing out that she notes that the people buy a very small quantity than before .
Moreover, Ramadan Abdel Kader, general router in the Ministry of Education and has two children (one in 2nd secondary while the other is in faculty of languages) said that some merchants didn’t increase the prices of the copy books, in the other hand they decreased the number of the copybook’s papers.
While Abd el Rahman Mahmoud, a father for one child in primary two said that he bought a package of copybooks that contains 10 copybooks by EGP 23 then he decided to buy another package the day after, he was surprised that the price of this package becomes EGP 27. He asked the merchant for the reason for this raise as he buys it yesterday by EGP23?! The merchant answered him that everyday has its price!! Mahmoud calls for a strict censorship over the traders by the Chamber of Commerce.
The reason for the rise in prices is importing the raw materials: Factory owner
In the other side Hossam Ghareeb , owner of awlad Ghareeb factory for papers and awlad Ghareeb library in AL-fagala thinks that the main reason for raising the prices this year is importing the raw materials ,as they import the raw materials which is used in the local production by dollar that was already increased , stressing that the paper market in Egypt depends more on the local production .
He added that the factories owners also suffer from this increase as they reduced the number of units they used giving example, importing 800 tonnes of raw materials instead of 1,000 tonnes.
The increase in the prices range between 40 and 45%, according to Ghareeb. He said that the traders themselves suffer from this increase pointing out that his factory depends mainly on selling to merchants, he noted this year that the merchants buying movement decreased by 20%.
Al-Fagala attracts new customers but loses its core customers because of high prices
Who has money to educate his children is the one who goes to buy things from Al-Fagala, by this statement Abou Yousef who is a merchant in Al-Fagala exhibition started his words, explaining that earlier the customers of Al-Fagala were the merchants who have libraries or the local people but now Al-Fagala grab new customers whose children are in the private and international schools, in the other hand it loses her core local customers. He said that Al-Fagala was always crowded but now the people come to ask about the prices and then they leave without buying anything.
What’s the difference between Al-Fagala libraries, street vendors, and exhibitions?
My sister completes her buying story that she didn’t understand what is the difference between the libraries, the exhibition, and the vendor streets, as they all present in the same place, so she decided to discover the difference by herself.
Abou Yousef who is a merchant in the exhibition said that exhibition differs from the libraries in that the customer can buy by piece or by package, also in the package he can freely change the thing that he doesn’t like in the package while in the library he buys only by package and if there is any fault in the package, he can’t change it.
About the prices he said that the prices are nearly the same as the libraries of Al-Fagala but it differs than the big libraries in other districts.
He said that the package of 60 papers copybook that contains 10 copybooks worth EGP 21, the package of 80 papers that contains 8 ones costs EGP 24 while the price of pen box that includes 12 pens ranges between EGP 10 and EGP 40, meanwhile the pencil box that contains 12 pencils ranges starts from EGP 8 up to EGP 35. He concluded that the budget to buy the basic needs for one child will be EGP 200 without buying the bag or the launch books or even the helping books.
While Ragab Hassan who is a seller in Elahlaya library said that the people turnout to buy decreased by 30% compared to the same period last year , he said that the people do not care about if the product is imported or local, the only thing that the people care about during buying is to buy the cheap product.
He added that the prices of the launch box ranges between EGP 30 and EGP 65 while the pen box prices that contains 12 pens range between EGP 10 and EGP 40, pencil sharpener prices range between 35 piaster and EGP 2
While the eraser package that contains 6 erasers ranges between EGP 12 to EGP 65. He said that the budget to buy the basic needs for one child will be not less than EGP 250 without the helping books or the schoolbag.
In the other side Mohamed Adel, a street vendor said that he sells in a cheaper price than the libraries and the exhibition as he doesn’t pay taxes, insurance or workers salaries explaining that if the pack of the pens in the library costs EGP 18, he sells it by EGP 15.
He said that the prices this year are doubled compared to the same period last year, as the pack of the pens ranges between EGP 10 to EGP 45, the eraser price ranges between EGP 3.30 to EGP 5. He pointed out that they are trying to grab customers by making offers like buy two and get one for free. He stressed that the budget to buy the basic needs for one child will be EGP 180 without buying the copybooks, school bag, flask, launch box and helping books.
Rising of dollar served the domestic industry
Despite Egyptians anger because of high prices, they deal with this crisis in unexpected way , people guide their consumption and change their buying lifestyle as Neivin Adel said that she reuse the files in decorating her home by coloring them instead of throwing them in the trash.
More over factories and companies started to turn to local production instead of importing. This year we started manufacturing the local flasks and launch boxes.
People were attracted more to the Egyptian product because it was cheaper and almost the same quality as the imported products, according to Fahmy Ibrahim, Manager of Farah company and library.
This point was explained by the head of Stationery Tools and Toys Division at the Chamber of Commerce, Ahmed Abougabal saying the rise in the price of the dollar led to a rise in the prices of imported products so local production started to make an adjustment in the local market, for example, earlier we depend 100% on the imported pencil case, currently we depend 60% or 70% on the local pencil case.
In the same context he pointed out that 50 or 60% of the Egyptian market consumption of papers are from local papers while the consumption of the pens are 50% local and 50% imported .
Abougabal said that the Egyptian market depends on the imported products 100% in the erasers and the pencil sharpeners while the engineering tools including rules, protractor, etc are 60 or 70% imported and 30 or 40% local.
He stressed that the local products quality began to keep pace with that of the imported products, but we can’t determine whether the turnout of the people are more on the local or the imported products as they complete each other, as there are some imported products that have no substitute in the local market.
In the same context the Egyptian market is still unable to dispense importing because it lacks a lot of raw materials such as petrochemicals and inks, according to Abougabal.
Abougabal responded to those who call the division to make a censorship on the traders that it is not the task of it.
He stressed that the mechanisms of supply, demand and cost are the main factors for determining prices, stressing that any restriction on the market is always reflected on it negatively.
In the same context, the prices jumped this year nearly 50% if we compared it to the same period last year due to the increase in the customs taxes and the sales taxes also due to the Egyptian pound floating, according to Abougabal.
Meanwhile, he added that if we compared this year prices to February 2017 prices , we will find that the prices are fixed and may tend to decline because the markets absorbed the increases raised on them.
He explained that the local products prices increased by 50% as we use in its production imported raw materials while the imported products prices jumped ranging between 40% and 70%.
He calls the parents not to buy more than their needs, to stay away from trademarks and to encourage the Egyptian product to adjust and develop itself because the later will help reducing reliance on imported products.
The development of e-commerce in Egypt leads to the increase in the number of the exhibitors on Jumia, according to the General Manager of JUMIA
There is a new trend appeared in the last 10 years which is on-line buying, some people have a fear from buying from on line persons or online websites while other note that it saves time and money. Jumia which is one of the largest online malls made a back to school section.
But this year there was a great change in the people attitude towards the school tools online buying as Manal Ahmed who is a businessperson and has two children said that she likes buying online as it saves time for her also she found that there are great differences in the prices between Jumia and other libraries.
In contrast Abeer Mohamed who is a housewife and has 4 children said that she likes to buy by the traditional ways as she has a bad experience with buying only explaining that she found the product delivered to her is different that the product, stressing that she fears on line buying even if the online buying is cheaper.
In the same context Hesham Safwat, the general manager of Jumia said that they tried to solve the people trust problem towards the on line buying by making the client pays after receiving the product also he can return the product without delivery charges during the first 7 days after receiving the product.
He stressed that this year, their back to school campaign was one of the most successful ones explaining that this year some of their product sales increased by 250% compared to the same period last year like the school bags. He explained the reason for this raise is the development of e-commerce in Egypt that lead to the increase in the number of the exhibitors on Jumia. Also due to Jumia`s focus in providing great discounts to the citizens through Jumia’s partnership with schools and with Samir & Aly library and with Nahdet Misr. He said that back to school section includes 3,500 products.
Safwat added that the turnout of the people to buy the local products is more than the exported ones explaining that 35% of Jumia`s sales in all sections are local products.
The exported products prices increased by about 100% while the local products prices that depend on exported raw materials increased by a range of 50% to 75% while the 100% local product increased by a range of 20% to 30%, according to the general manager of Jumia .
He stressed that Jumia tries to ease the burden by launching Egyptian hand-made campaign
on the Q4 of the last year. Throughout this campaign Jumia supports the Egyptian manufacturers as Jumia doesn’t take from them any commission so the manufactures can reduce the prices. Also, he thinks that Jumia is cheaper than the traditional shops as it doesnt pay, electricity, water, rent expenses, etc.
He concluded that the budget for one child to buy the essential needs is EGP 400.
Buying school supplies is usually accompanied by joy not only for the children but also for the parents, unfortunately I found after listening to all the buying stories that this joy has been broken this year due to the high prices.