Back-to-school shopping can put a big dent in your household budget, especially if you have more than one child. We’ve analysed the UK market to find the costs of your child's junior school uniform from various retailers, so you can get an idea of what to expect to pay.
In our study, we included major retailers that supply our entire selection of kit and have easy-to-navigate websites for both at-home and in-store browsing and shopping. We calculated the prices for a set of new clothes and shoes for boys and girls in reception (4 years old), year 3 (7 years old) and year 7 (11 years old) at Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S, John Lewis and Next.
Cheapest School Uniforms
Across the board, three retailers stood out for offering the most economical school uniforms: Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Their prices averaged 30% less than the average cost of a school uniform, or at least 40% less than what you'd expect to pay at M&S, John Lewis or Next. The cheapest average all-in cost for our basket of new school uniform items was £92 at Asda; Next cost nearly twice as much with a price of £179.
Here we've broken out the uniform costs by age and gender, so you can see the expected costs for your child at each retailer:
Sometimes, it is worthwhile buying a more expensive product. For instance, M&S offers non-iron shirts that cost more but can save time and angst when it comes to the laundry. A 2-pack of M&S non-iron, short sleeve shirts for a 7 year old costs £10 - for the same price you can buy a 5-pack of short sleeve shirts from Asda (labelled "easy to iron"). John Lewis's cost £11, but you get taped seams for strength, re-enforced collars, minimal ironing and Teflon EcoElite to repel stains.
Also, while the analysis shows M&S, John Lewis and Next are more expensive, you may find other benefits to shopping at these retailers. To some extent they offer a wider array of styles (e.g., slim fit, plus fit, skinny leg, etc.) and, when we checked, tend to have ample stock in most products.
Boys and Girls
Uniforms for boys generally came in a few pounds cheaper than for girls, despite many items (e.g., shirts and PE kit) being unisex. The largest contributing factor is that skirts tend to be more expensive than shorts - on average two skirts would cost £11 vs £7.50 for shorts. You can see detailed pricing estimates for our basket of uniform items across the retailers broken out by gender and age in the following table.
|4 Yrs||7 Yrs||11 Yrs||4 Yrs||7 Yrs||11 Yrs|
|Marks and Spencer||£145||£165||£186||£149||£171||£191|
Cost of School Shoes
The most costly item on your child's back-to-school list will inevitably be a pair of shoes. The average price from these six retailers is £23 for their cheapest pair of black, leather school shoes (velcro straps for boys, mary janes for girls). Sainsbury's came in with the cheapest at £15.
This is one back-to-school item that you may choose to shop for beyond the six retailers in this study. Geox, Clarks and Start Rite are popular brands, but don't be surprised to pay £25 - £50 for these quality shoes.
Back-to-School Clothing List
Different families - even those at the same school - will buy a different number of shirts, shorts, etc. For the purposes of this study we priced the following shopping list of clothing and footwear:
Back-to-School Clothing List
- 2 Shorts/Skirts
- 4 Long Sleeve Shirts
- 5 White Sport Socks
- 1 PE Sweatshirt
- 2 Trousers
- 2 Jumpers
- 2 PE Shorts
- 1 Black Leather School Shoes
- 4 Short Sleeve Shirts
- 5 Grey Socks/Tights
- 3 PE Polo Shirts
- 1 Trainers
For children required to wear a blazer to school, parents should expect to add between £10 and £28 to their school clothing budget, if shopping at these retailers. Blazers are not available from Sainsbury's or Tesco, however.
We researched the prices of items of clothing or footwear by price checking each retailer’s website. Where different products were available, we took the product with the lowest price. The only exception to this is shoes, where we consistently priced leather velcro-strapped shoes for boys and leather mary janes for girls, where available - leather wasn't always the cheapest on offer but this provided consistency across retailers. When multipacks were offered (e.g., a pack of 2 shirts instead of just 1), we chose the multipack offer as that was the cheapest available. We standardized prices across retailers by dividing multipack prices by the number of items in the pack, thereby calculating a per-item cost. While clearly no one buys 1.5 packs of shirts (e.g., if, say, 3 shirts were desired), this method gives us a reasonable price comparison across retailers. Those buying pinafores instead of skirts for their girls should budget an extra £1.50 - £10.50 per item, depending on retailer.