I’ll take 265 Dozen Glue Sticks…

Every year the Eastern School District has a bulk-ordering program that it offers to schools in the district that want to participate.

I’ve a particular interest in this program because one of my pet issues at the PEI Home and School Federation is looking into whether it’s possible for the Federation to assist with lowering the cost of school supplies to Island families through this same sort of bulk-purchasing.

The District’s program works like this: it sends out a list of possible supplies to schools, receives back requests, compiles the totals, and then puts out the supply purchase to tender. The tender isn’t awarded as a whole: for each supply, the lowest priced tenderer winds the bid, so any given supplier might, say, win the tender for glue sticks, but not for printer ink.

This year, for example, the district needed to buy 265 dozen 9g glue sticks (that’s 3,180 glue sticks!).

The successful bidder was Grand & Toy which came it at a price of $5.04/dozen, or 42 cents each, for this product, which they sell online for 75 cents each or, if you buy more than 12, at 68 cents each.

So the District’s price represents a 44% savings over what we parents would pay retail from the same source.

In our family’s case, the Grade 4 Supply List at Prince Street School called for 4 gluesticks: we bought a 4-pack of 8g gluesticks at Staples for $3.50, or 88 cents each; if we’d purchased these at the District price we would have paid $1.68.

So we would have saved $1.82, or more than 50%.

We paid a total of $23.33 for Oliver’s school supplies this year, and we were able to save a little because he had things left over from Grade 3.

But let’s assume that’s the figure every family pays. And let’s assume that every family could save 50% on supplies through bulk-buying.

There are about 20,000 students in schools across the province, so if they each paid $11.66/year instead of $23.33/year, the total savings to Island parents would be $233,200.

That’s only a rough number, of course; but I think it’s a rough number worth following up on. Which is what I’ll do tomorrow night at the first meeting of the school season of the Home and School Federation.


Oliver's picture
Oliver on September 30, 2010 - 17:00 Permalink

Are you considering the cost of distribution, if purchases for the whole province were centralized? Glue sticks would arrive one day, paper clips another. I guess you might already have administrators or staff traveling fairly frequently at least between the various district offices and the Ministry of Ed or whatever is the central school-HQ, but distribution would need arranging and paying for, and conceivably it’s a deal breaker.

Daniel Burka's picture
Daniel Burka on September 30, 2010 - 17:48 Permalink

I was thinking precisely the same thing as Oliver. The logistics of distribution and handling billing, returns, and complaints is obviously non-trivial.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on September 30, 2010 - 20:44 Permalink

Supplies purchased by the Eastern School District are drop-shipped by suppliers to each school, which mitigates the logistics issues somewhat. There would still be intra-school issues with sorting out shipments, etc. but I can imagine that would be easily taken on by staff.

Susan's picture
Susan on September 30, 2010 - 21:46 Permalink

We live in Halifax where my daughter is in grade one. Both this year and last (grade primary), all the parents had to do was send a cheque for $40.00 to school for supplies.

No trips to Staples where maybe I would have spent less money only to have spent money for gas and my time shopping. No worrying about about having to get the “right” scribbler—red not blue, Cinderella not Ariel, etc.—or gue stick or what have you. And we were not asked for any additional money during the year. In fact, in June excess supplies came home in the form of “prizes.”

Another benefit of this approach for our school is that it is very multicultural, 48 nationalities among 200 student. Many of these students and their parents are new to Canada and some of the parents are not fluent speakers of English. The group approach reduces some of the stress and confusion of starting in a new place.