Less than a third of parents said they would buy school uniform from specialist providers this year, with the rest turning to supermarkets, according to a new survey.
The research by consumer insights provider Toluna revealed that only 30% of parents expected to buy schoolwear from a specialist uniform retailer for the new academic year.
The survey of 500 parents and guardians revealed that 39% were going to buy uniforms from Asda, 29% from Tesco and 24% from Marks & Spencer.
However, the Schoolwear Association warned that buying cheaper was only a short-term solution. “Without quality uniforms, parents will find they need to replace items more regularly, which could cost them more in the longer term,” its chairman, Matthew Easter, said.
Toluna’s research also found that 51% said that they were expecting to spend more on school uniform this year compared to 2021 because of rising prices.
It revealed that 27% of parents planned to spend between £26 and £50 more per child than last year, 24% said they expected to spend between £51 and £100 more per child, and 13% said they were likely to spend between £101 and £249 more per child.
To save money on back-to-school shopping, 51% of parents said they would re-use uniform and other school items from last year, 26% said they would switch to lower-priced brands, and 22% said they would switch to cheaper retailers.
Laurence Vogel, enterprise account director for consumer packaged goods and retail at Toluna, said: “It’s clear that the cost-of-living crisis is having a big impact on families as school uniforms and back-to-school items become more expensive.
“Parents are already opting for lower-priced brands and switching to cheaper retailers, demonstrating why it’s vital that brands and their retailers must meet consumers where they’re at by changing their product offering and messaging to be relevant for them.”
For back to school this year, Tesco is selling three-packs of long-sleeved white shirts for £11, two-packs of T-shirts for £4 and two-packs of trousers for £9.
Matthew at the Schoolwear Association pointed out that schoolwear providers had been working hard to drive costs of uniform down. The association’s latest data showed that the combined average basket cost of compulsory secondary school uniform had reduced by 8% since 2020, costing £93 in 2021.
“As uniforms are worn for 195 days of the year, it is essential that they are good quality and durable so they last as long as possible, and parents can either hand them down or donate them.
“As an industry of small, family-run businesses, we understand the struggles families are facing as the cost-of-living crisis takes hold. While school uniforms remain an important part of school life, acting as a social leveller and preventing bullying, it is important that we support families where possible during these difficult times.
“We will continue to work closely with schools to understand the needs of their families and provide the best advice and options to keep costs to a minimum. However we recognise that more could be done, and that’s why we’ve launched a campaign to make school uniforms VAT exempt which would save more money on uniforms for families.”
The campaign, supported by an online petition, calls on the Government to abolish tax on school uniforms by scrapping VAT on all school-specific uniform items to bring down costs for families. At present, clothing for children aged 14 or older, or taller or larger than the average, is subject to a 20% VAT rate, which includes school uniforms.