As parents get their children’s bags packed for this week’s return to school, some elementary schools have it covered by bulk orders coming from out of town.
This out of town shopping has local providers concerned for their bottom line.
Andy Cowan, owner of Cowan Office Supplies says it distresses him that these orders aren’t filled by a local provider.
“I would definitely like to see these schools shop local,” he said. “Any time dollars go out of the community, it’s not a good thing.”
Cowan said his business is “good about supporting schools with donations” and offers scholarships to local kids.
He would like to see those efforts recognized with school and parental support of his office supply store.
In offering supplies to parents, Blewett Elementary shops around from Teacher File out of Courtney, BC, Hall’s Basics in Trail and Cowan Office Supplies in Nelson. South Nelson shops at Hall’s Basics in Trail and both Hume and Rosemont order through Teacher File. St. Joseph School orders from Cowans.
Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson said it’s disappointing that some schools look outside the region to purchase school supplies. Local businesses want the opportunity to be competitive and will offer up bulk quotes. It’s in their best interest to do so.
“Back to school shopping can be a major boost for the small business retail sector. It is second only to Christmas in terms of importance for many retailers,” Thomson said. “These local stores and community members are the same ones some of these folks count on to help support local fundraising efforts. You very seldom see a team sponsored by or a donation made from an out of area business. Local businesses also pay plenty of taxes that support local government and school districts.”
At Rosemont, ordering supplies is part of a Parent Advisory Council fundraiser and Robyn Price says Teacher File makes it easy for her as a volunteer stepping up to help. In year two of the fundraiser, time strapped teachers didn’t have to make up supply lists only check if revisions were needed after last year’s order.
“This was spoon fed to us —made so easy,” Price said. “It’s a good-intentioned thing that makes it easier for parents in a school system that’s strapped for time and money.”
Teacher File provides 10 per cent of the order to PAC that then goes to buy supplies for kids who can’t afford them otherwise.
Price supports shopping locally when possible but didn’t find it an efficient option.
“I know people do take issue — I get that,” she said. “But then some cutting-edge local company should approach us with a deal all put together… If a local business wants our business, come sell it to me.”
Price points out that spending through Teacher File still supports the provincial economy.
Offering competitive prices, Teacher File is a big supplier of general materials to area schools as well. Superintendent Jeff Jones says Kootenay Lake School District does have a policy to purchase locally, whenever and wherever possible.
“However, the school district’s first consideration must be value for money spent. For this reason, local suppliers and contractors will be given preference only as other conditions are comparable,” he said.
Jones explained the district is accountable to the public to spend limited dollars in the most economical way possible.
“Sometimes our local providers can’t give us close to the same costs it would be to purchase elsewhere,” he said.
Schools make the decision where to shop independently.