FOR three years now, April Redija has relied on an educational supply store in downtown Cebu City for her children’s school needs.

Spotted inside the Visayan Educational Supply on Magallanes St., Redija said she has prepared some P2,000 to pay for the school supplies, good for her four children who are in kindergarten and grade school at the Saint Mary’s Academy in San Nicolas, Cebu City.

The Visayan Educational Supply is one of the go-to stores for affordable wholesale and retail school supplies in downtown Cebu City, Redija said. It has been existing for close to 50 years now, said its operations manager Mirabel Tan.

“We have no price changes in our school supplies,” Tan said in Cebuano.

“We received SRP (suggested retail price) from DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), but in fact, our prices here are even lower than their suggested price,” she added.

DTI published on May 17 in national broadsheets the “Gabay sa Pamimili ng School Supplies,” which prints the SRPs for school supplies categorized by brands. The price guide further classified the products according to prices with no changes. Prices of school supplies remained stable as of yesterday.

According to DTI Cebu Senior Trade and Industry Development Specialist Dinah Gladys Oro, local trade agency officials will conduct an intensive monitoring of school supply prices in Cebu starting next week.

No price changes were noted for most brands of notebooks and pad papers, the DTI price guide shows. Oro said retailers who are selling above the SRP will be issued show cause orders so the can explain within 48 hours why their products are priced above the SRP.

A few meters away from the Visayan Educational Supply, Maria Mañapao and Angelina Bayaras were carrying with them bags of school supplies worth some P4,000.

The women who were in their 50s said they bought the items also in downtown Cebu City and are intending to resell these in a cooperative store based in Barangay Bulacao at a 12-percent markup, said Mañapao.

Both Mañapao and Bayaras are members of the Cabancalan Urban Poor Resettlement Multi-Purpose Cooperative. Mañapao is the secretary and Bayaras is the cooperative’s treasurer. Each May, the two shop together for school supplies that are later sold to both cooperative members and non-members.

At this point, school supply retailers have observed lean purchases.

Hinay pa man karon. Naa na’y namalit uban, pero gamay pa gyud (It’s still slow. There are some who have begun buying but not a lot),” said National Bookstore Mango branch custodian Flor Sepio.

National Bookstore in Robinsons Galleria also noted slow sales of school supplies, said its branch manager Lydia Bacalso.

The Visayan Educational Supply observed a growing number of customers buying, but they expect more to come starting next week, according to Tan.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has announced that classes for public elementary and secondary schools for school year 2016-2017 will start on June 13.

This May 27 to 28, DTI will hold a Diskwento Caravan in Barangay Mantalungon this Friday and Barangay Caleriohan in the town of Dalaguete on Saturday. Oro said school supplies are part of the inventory since the event will be participated in by National Bookstore. Thirteen food, soap, and home product retailers will join them, added the DTI official.

She said buyers can expect items in Diskwento Caravan to be sold at around 10 percent off the retail price.

Based on DTI’s price record published in its website, an eight-piece box of crayons are sold between P10.75 and P21.75 while composition notebooks are sold for P11 to 31. Writing notebooks are priced between P9 and P31; intermediate pad from P14 to P29.75; pencil at P3 to P10 per piece; ballpen at P4 to P10.75 per piece; and eraser at P5 to P8 per piece.

The trade agency warns that “retailers found to be selling at very high prices can be imposed with an administrative fine of P20,000 up to one million pesos while criminal penalties under the Price Act include imprisonment from five up to 15 years.”