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Friday 23 August 2019
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Schoolbag trends

Backpacks or trolleys – what's best for lots of books?

School may be out, but while many students are enjoying their free time, diligent parents are already preparing their children for the new school term in September. When purchasing supplies, backpacks, in particular, are a topic of concern for parents as the weight of the bag could be harmful to the child's spine.

According to a Spine-health article written by Louise Donahue, there are five features to look for when choosing a bag. Parents should choose a bag with lightweight materials that would not add extra weight. The child should try on the bag to ensure it is comfortable. The straps should have shoulder padding so it is comfy, adjustable and won't dig into his or her back. The bag should have compartments so weight could be evenly distributed. Lastly, don't buy a bag with extra space in it. Donahue says the bigger the bag the more tempted a child is to fit extra stuff and add weight to it.

Regarding the weight of primary school students' book bags, Christine Jagmohan, store manager at Nigel R Khan Trincity Mall branch, said parents should lobby schools to have a structured time table for students so they don't have to lug around all their books every day.

"I think that it is something the school has to work out because some of these text books are pretty heavy. In addition to having these textbooks (there are) notebooks –– most of the schools require notebooks –– so it really is a problem with the heavy bags. It is a problem for the kids' back.

Schoolbags on sale at Office Express in Tobago on July 19, 2019. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

"I had this conversation with parents, and they were thinking the same thing, especially with the primary school students. They were thinking teachers could do a timetable for books on certain days, (so kids don't have to) carry all the books in the bag. Secondary school students, they are the only ones who have timetables; primary school students don't. They have to be tugging along all those books every day."

The concerns about heavy schoolbags lead parents to make choices on the type of bag suitable for their children. Newsday spoke to Amira Rennie, floor manager of Francis Fashion Shoe Locker, Trincity Mall, to find out what are the consumer trends.

"Right now it (sales) is picking up. It will get busier coming down to month-end. I always say you have two times to buy: July month-end and August month-end. So you'll find July month-end sales heighten until August month-end and then it will get busier. By next week, sales will skyrocket. They will buy the bags and the shoes and get that out of the way first," she said.

Rennie observed parents prefer to buy bags and shoes first then go on to buying the books.

What's the most popular type of bag? It depends on the age of the child. If they are in secondary school, JanSport bags are the students' favourite, but for the younger ones, particularly those between standards three to five, it's all about the trolley bags, mostly because parents think it is better for their children to roll their books rather than carry them on their back.

"Parents don't want to see bags on their child's back, so the trolley bags are a big seller with the primary school children. In standard three, four and five, they go with the trolley bags. Preschoolers and infants as well, use trolley bags. Some parents do not want their children to be lifting up the bags. Most children have transportation to go to school, so they won't be lifting up the bags much or carrying them very far."

There is a wide choice of backpack styles for children to choose from. Francis Fashion tends to stock backpacks that are themed to popular and trending movies. They have Marvel Avengers, Frozen, Dora the Explorer, Black Panther, Princess, Toy Story and Spiderman.

"The children, they will see whatever is trending, and that is what they want. If Pepper Pig is trending this year, that is what you would see in the store – a Pepper Pig bag. If Dora is trending, they want a Dora bag and that is how people shop. They say: 'My little girl, she is watching Pepper Pig and she wants a Pepper Pig bag.' If they watch Dora or they watch Avengers, or Spiderman coming out they want a Spiderman bag."

The primary school children tend to dictate what the parents buy, not the other way around.

"The parents would come and ask (the child): 'You like this one?' Usually, if they don't like the bag they would say so. If they want Dora, they want Dora and they won't settle for anything less. But the bigger children, they would just come and choose a bag that suits them. It's the little ones that have the fuss. They want princess, they want Frozen."

For the secondary students, it's all about JanSport. JanSport bags come in different designs and textures such as pineapple print, corduroy, satin, pink sparkles and vaporwave to name a few.

Other popular brands include Feeler, Lol and adidas. There are even Garfield the cat bags. Garfield has always been a strong brand, Newsday was told.

Some of the bags come as sets with a backpack, lunch kit and pencil case in one. Some parents prefer to buy the sets so the kids have all the matching items.

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