Sat, 10 Jul 2004

Parents flock to Pasar Pagi for stationery

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta

Besides lower prices, customer loyalty is another advantage that stationery vendors at Pasar Pagi market in Glodok, West Jakarta, have over major book stores.

Rosiana, a 36-year-old housewife from Ciputat, South Jakarta, prefers to buy stationery for her school-age children at the market, simply because she has always shopped there.

"When I was little, my mother would take me to Pasar Pagi every year to buy stationary," she said. "I guess I shop here with my children to relive that experience."

Her children Ade, 7, and Riri, 10, were seen busy at a nearby stall choosing books and other items. The academic year starts on July 19.

Vendors at the market, located on the corner of Jl. Asemka and Jl. Petak Sembilan, offer exercise books sold in packs for between Rp 10,000 (US$1.11) and Rp 15,000 each, depending upon their brand, size and number of pages. The top seller at the market, which was established by the city administration in 1968, is a pack of 10 38-sheet books, sold at Rp 12,000.

Parents and children also buy book jackets that are offered from Rp 3,500 to Rp 7,500, depending upon their size and whether they are plastic or brown paper.

The price of pens and pencils ranges from between Rp 2,500 per dozen to Rp 5,000 per dozen.

Rosiana said she usually spends up to Rp 100,000 on stationery for her children.

"But, they may also need a new school bag or pencil case," she said, while searching for pencils with eraser-heads.

School bags are priced at around Rp 30,000, while pencil cases are usually Rp 5,000 each.

"Customers can always bargain and get a better price if they buy a large quantity of items," said Wijaya, a stall owner, who was busy scribbling a customer's total purchase on a piece of cardboard -- and haggling over the final price.

Wijaya said many of the market's regular customers were parents, besides stationery-shop owners and office suppliers. He added that he had seen a 50 percent increase in sales since the school holiday began, and expected sales would increase until school resumed.

Ali, a street-side vendor, however, was not as optimistic as Wijaya. He was worried that big discounts and the convenience offered by major bookstores would cause Pasar Pagi to lose its competitive edge.

Nanik, who lives in Slipi, West Jakarta, said she would probably take her children to bookstores at malls if they could not find what they wanted at Pasar Pagi.

At Blok M, South Jakarta, two major book stores, Gramedia and Gunung Agung, were offering a 15 percent discount on stationary until the end of July.

While their prices still average at Rp 15,000 for a pack of exercise books, some match Pasar Pagi's prices.

"Bookstores offer a greater range, and my children can buy their textbooks there," Nanik said.