Mikaelyan's back-to-school bookstore business increased when she expanded to an
The beginning of September means the
beginning of school, and that means the beginning of good business for dealers
of all things related to school life.
During the last days of August, white
shirts (the traditional uniform of schoolchildren) fly off shop racks like nervous
In markets throughout the country the back-to-school marathon
is a race for shoppers, with rules set by the merchants.
shoes, bookbags . . . The rush is on at all shops and open markets.
five year old Marineh Galstyan has four school-aged children. She leaves Firdus
market with over-stuffed parcels and a wallet that has been lightened.
"Every year I was spending about $250 but this year prices have increased.
I had to spend $300," she says.
In a country where the "official"
salary is about $35 a month, there is back to school gridlock in Yerevan markets
with families spending multiple times that so that their children will be appropriately
presented and prepared.
Impatient children torment tired parents who wish
for a more convenient way of performing the annual ritual.
Sargsyan blames some unknown somebody for not making his back-to-school-shopping
"These days they could have widened the paths leading
to the places selling school goods by decreasing the number of pavilions selling
goods of less interest, or by providing smaller territories for those pavilions,"
Firdus open market is considered one of the cheapest market outlets
in the capital. However, there are more stationery products than clothes for schoolchildren.
One of the traders, 39 year old Aram Arakelyan, says that it is not profitable
for him to buy wholesale goods for schoolchildren.
"If we don't sell
goods before September 1 then we are going to keep them in the warehouses till
next year. And the next year there will be completely different fashion and style
of clothes and we won't be able to sell these goods," he says.
Echmiadzin, bookstore businesswoman Hasmik Mikaelyan has widened the range of
her production these days. She has opened an outlet in the market, where trade
far exceeds business in her regular store.
"People are used to shopping
in open markets," she says. "It looks like they don't want to be politely
served. If today the turnover of the bookstore makes $50 then it will be $100
in markets. This activity level remains until September 10."
complains that many traders make use of the moment and increase the prices these
She also says that this year's school shopping season is more active
than the last. She has noticed, for example, that fiction books are selling this
year, whereas last year parents tried to keep their kids away from the non-essentials.
One school dress sold in Malatia open market costs 11,600-14,500 drams
($20-25), shirts cost 3,000-8,000 drams ($5-15). Cheap shoes cost 5,000-7,000
drams ($8-12). Schoolbags cost 3,000-10000 drams ($5-17).
bookbags to shirts and shoes and books and . . . first day of school takes a toll
on the family budget.
A child's school preparation
isn't complete of course without a selection of pens and paper. At most markets
the cheaper ones made in China are good sellers, but demand is also high for the
better-quality brands produced in Turkey and Russia.
A stop at the stationery
section will add 5,000 drams (about $8.50) to a first-former's family expenses.
spend about $100 getting a child ready for first form.
For many, the spending
begins even before the shopping.
Anahit Margaryan has one nine-form schoolchild
and one ten-form. She must pay 11,000 drams ($19) fee for using school books.
my husband works in our family. His average salary is 50,000 drams ($86) per month.
Lessons have only just started but they are already collecting 1,200 ($2) drams
from each child in the school. They say it's for curtains and general reconstruction
works," complains Anahit.
Director of the Echmiatsin Nersisyan Seminary
Hamlet Nahatakyan says that money collected from parents compensates for money
that doesn't come from the government.
"Five year ago the government
allotted three million drams (approximately $5,200) to the seminary, which we
used for reconstruction of the first floor," he says. "After that they
have never allotted any more money. There are directors of schools, who thanks
to their own connections find donors. And very often it happens when they collect
money from schoolchildren for different things."
The final expense
comes on the first school day, when tradition dictates that children bring flowers
for their teachers. This year, prices increased about 500-1,000 drams (about 80
cents to $1.75).
Anyway, September has come and with it the school year.
And with that, has come the spending and the complaining. But with it, too, has
come the festive mood of butterflies in white shirts starting a new season.