A Consumer Council of Fiji survey of exercise book prices has found price increases compared to a similar survey conducted during the same period last year. This year’s survey was carried out in 12 retail outlets which looked at the prices of some of the most commonly purchased brands and book types.
After the survey, the Council contacted the major exercise book suppliers who have assured that they had not increased their wholesale prices on locally produced books. Government had increased duty on imported exercise books to assist local manufacturers.
However, the survey has revealed that some retailers have increased the price of locally-produced books compared to last year’s price. The Council contacted the retailers who were selling locally produced exercise books at a higher price to understand the rationale behind this increase.
One retailer blamed his staff for putting wrong price tag on the exercise books while another retailer gave excuse that they had dropped the price of text books and to recover this cost, they had to increase the price of exercise books.
One outlet located in Renwick Road had higher price on exercise books compared to all other retailers, the survey found. This same retailer used discount vouchers to attract parents by giving these vouchers to schools which then released these vouchers to the parents along with the book list.
Despite discount vouchers, parents would have saved more if they had shopped around for lower prices rather than relying on the discount vouchers for saving. This is why it is very important for consumers to do comparison shopping.
In a total of 85 types1 of exercise books surveyed, more than 30% (26 types) have had price increases compared to prices gathered in the 2014 survey. The highest average price increase was 34.4% ($0.77) while the lowest jump in price was by 1% ($0.01). The highest increase was for the A3 Technical Drawing book. There were also some price decreases observed during the survey. A total of 18 books (21.2%) dropped in price, while 35 books had no price change from 2014. Most brands had price hikes such as Oxford, iVola and Rups Big Bear, although the distributors for Oxford and iVola exercise books did not increase the wholesale price. There were no price changes (compared to 2014) for Smart Books sold exclusively by Suva Book Shop.
1Types of Books examples: 1B5 Ex Book 80pp, A4 Lecture Pad 100pp, etc.
In terms of prices per outlet, our survey found some supermarkets together with Post Shop to have generally lower priced exercise books compared with other outlets selling the same brand (e.g. Oxford). In some cases, prices of some books were cheaper in supermarkets, for example Oxford 1B5 Ex Bk 100pp was $0.95 at New World Supermarket and $0.96 at RB Patel compared to Jedi’s and Classic Stationery’s price of $1.00 and Pacific Bookshop’s $1.20 price. In terms of brand availability, Oxford was the most widely available in regards to stock and book types. Three brands – Smart Books, Rups Big Bear and Pacific Books – are exclusive and available only at Suva Book Shop, Rups and Pacific Bookshop, respectively. The survey has found a reduction in choice of brands with Warwick Books and Viti Books now being phased-out or available in limited amounts at few outlets. The Council is urging retailers to be fair with pricing.
Retailers should be mindful that the lower duty for locally-manufactured books should also benefit consumers through lower prices particularly when wholesale price remains same.
Meanwhile, the Council continues to urge consumers to do comparison shopping. School children on holidays can utilize their free time and help with the price comparison. Furthermore consumers should always check for quality of the books. Although the Council’s research team did not come across any quality issues during the survey, consumers are advised to check the quality of the exercise books they are buying. They should open the books and check the staples. The staples should not be rusted. They should also check the pages and ensure there are no misprints, torn pages or other problems.
Ms. Premila Kumar
CEO – Consumer Council of Fiji