School Supplies 

"I try to keep every dollar I can in the community and I’m always willing to try to make things work."

— Garth Phare


PAC fundraiser raises questions about shopping local

Pemberton parents encouraged to buy Burnaby company’s school supplies

The Parents Advisory Committee of Signal Hill Elementary School is encouraging parents to order "Smart Packs" through a Burnaby-based company. And the PAC fundraiser is frustrating one local businessman who says he could have made an equally, if not more financially advantageous arrangement, with the organization.

Teaching Things furnishes supply kits to 70 elementary schools province wide, including those in the Howe Sound area. Promoting itself as "one-stop shopping" without retail mark ups, the company allows parents to order via forms distributed in the classroom, by mail or through the company website. The supplies are available in the classroom on the first day of classes. In exchange for promoting the company in its schools, Parent Advisory Committees receive either five per cent of the sales in cash back or eight per cent if its to be converted to secure art supplies, educational supplies or teaching resources from Teaching Things.

Ranging in price from $26.95 to $34.95 for Signal Hill students, the packages are customized for each grade, shipped in a "keepsake box" and feature unique items such as pencils engraved with the school name and personalized name labels.

Garth Phare, co-owner of Frontier Street Pharmacy in Pemberton, feels the promotion is bad for both local retail and the consumer. And he is troubled that the committee went ahead without discussing their plans with him.

"The sad part is I went through the package and it’s not a great deal. By the time I added taxes we were still $2 less a package at regular price. With September sales prices on stationery it could be as much as 50 per cent less," said Phare.

Anne West, a five-year PAC veteran who acts as liaison with the French school, who brought the program to her group’s attention, stands by the organization’s decision to promote Teaching Things as a supplier.

"First of all, the local drugstore does not offer contributions of $3 a package or a percentage to PAC," said West.

"If Garth [Phare] wanted to put together a package like Teaching Things where the parents had a convenient method of being able to purchase a bundle of school supplies, and if he then wanted to donate a portion of that to the PAC, we would go for that. What we were looking for was an alternative."

West believes the groups that will be attracted to the offer are the same people who have traditionally traveled out of the area to do their back-to-school shopping at big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco. She cites the fact that another Pemberton business, Paperworks, has been selling about 100 similarly grouped supply packages for the past seven years with little impact on the drugstore’s business. She also states that she, personally, will probably end up buying items such as "smelly felts", that are not included in the Smart Packs, at Frontier Street Pharmacy.

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