Parents and children shopping for back-to-school items at novelty stationery stores all come to one conclusion – the items are trendy and fashionable.
Emojis, unicorns, princesses, fairies, and other images covered in iridescent, glitters and sparkles are plastered on backpacks, lunch bags, pens, pencils, keychains, notebooks and locker magnets are trending, and stores such as Funky Fish, Sanrio Surprises (Hello Kitty), Simply Personal, Wonderful World and even Super Pharm, carry a wide variety of them.
The stores, however, do not carry textbooks, uniforms, or any compulsory school accessories listed on booklists, issued by the Ministry of Education. These items are normally found at the regular bookstores.
With school about to reopen in a few weeks, parents are ensuring that all school items on the booklist are checked and accounted for. When this is taken care of, the miscellaneous novelty items are bought. The character and novelty stationery shops do carry notepads, pens, erasers, colouring books, pencil holders and much more, that are decorated and seen as 'fashionable' or ‘trendy’ in the eyes of tweens and teenagers, in particular.
Without a doubt back-to-school items are being marketed differently and has allowed children to express themselves through the range of items, designs and colours offered.
One store owner said, “In some ways the items has allowed for an inclusion of differences in a subtle way among children from a very young age. It has given them a chance to express themselves openly.”
The stores mainly cater for girls in every category of merchandise that they offer, except for Wonderful World, that offers backpacks alone for boys.
Operations manager at Wonderful World, Tennille Zakour said, “This is the trend that our demographics are interested in, so we will cater for that. Sales have been good, and we intend to supply it as long as there is a demand for it.”
She said, “We mostly cater for girls but have a few character backpacks such as Paw Patrol for the boys. The girls are aware of stylish and what is not, and look for things like that when they come into our stores with their parents.”
Sanrio Surprises is the home of the world-famous character, Hello Kitty, whose parent company is in Japan. Merchandise include electronics, gift, stationery, children’s clothing, personal care products and fashion accessory items for females of all ages.
The local store is at West Mall, Westmoorings. Sales representatives Nicole De Camps and Jada George said, "Shoppers who usually visit the store are of all ages.”
George added, "Sales have increased, a lot of parents are getting their kids some stuff for school and to also use at home. There is a rush currently to get certain items for school, a big seller are pens."
De Camps said, “Most of our sales come from people buying presents.”
Sales representative at Funky Fish, Aaliya Nelson said, “The store has maintained most of its loyal customers. We opened in 2016 and the people that come back are familiar to us. They shop for things that are not really available at the regular bookstores, like iridescent backpacks and pencil cases, that are uniquely branded for us.”
Funky Fish is also an international brand originating from Spain. It operates locally out of West Mall and caters for female tweens, teenagers and young adults. The prices of the items vary, depending on brand and style.
Some mothers told Newsday the items remind them of their childhood and they would have loved to have such stationery when they were in school. One parent said, “I sometimes buy a pen or notepad for myself.”
Several tween girls agreed that the novelties make them feel special. One girl even said, “I feel like I am living in a dream with all my princess things. My friends and I just love it.”
But it isn’t all glitz and glamour for everyone. One parent, Ria Holdip said, “The collection is nice, but I think it is too expensive. With the money I make I cannot afford to give my child these things as much as I would like to. I can get three pens in a normal store for the price I would pay for one here. Right now, it is not for me, but I hope one day I can afford it.”