Stock up on school supplies
Parents in Luxembourg usually heave a collective sigh in late August as they remember how expensive and time consuming it is to stock up on school supplies. What's more, come March, half of what they bought has run out or disappeared.
Before we list a few places to go if you need to fill school bags, or just need to buy a new school bag, here are a few things to consider before buying:
1. Age/Quality index – Young children will lose things, and often essential items like paints and colouring pencils are provided by the school, so don’t start seeking out top quality art supplies for your five year old. Conversely the older your child is, the more durable things need to be. Good quality ink pens, a decent protractor set, eraser and pencil case are essential. You don’t want your teen to be fretting about ink smudges during a test.
2. Schools specifications – Don't rush out and buy paper or exercise books until you have some idea of the school and teacher specifications. Some schools are very prescriptive about stationery requirements per subject, particularly at secondary level.
3. Buy in bulk – Firstly it's cheaper in the long-term to buy several ink cartridges and ink eraser pens (and frixion pens), and secondly some things are not stocked in the shops year round.
4. School bags – Expensive doesn't necessarily mean it will last, give the zipper and straps a thorough going over, check stitching and finishes too. Think about how much needs to go into that bag and whether it's big enough to accommodate several folders and an iPad for older kids. As a rule of thumb, a backpack is considered better for posture than a wheeled back, but a backpack should not weigh more than 10% of a child’s weight, so for young kids, a wheeled bag might be better.
5. Eco-friendly choices – You can sometimes opt for recycled paper or folders made from this, plus solvent-free glue and pencils and rulers that meet the FSC and PEFC certifications. Avoid plastic where possible (so opt for a metal pencil sharpener) and consider a canvas or leather pencil case.
Where to get supplies
Cactus Hobbi – Belle Etoile
All the Cactus stores have stationery sections, but some are limited. If you want to get everything in one go, this is the place to come, but be ready to splash out a hefty amount, as nothing is cut price, but most brands are trusted and durable. If your school list is very prescriptive in terms of types of exercise books, folders or test sheet paper, this is the place to get them.
During September there is a school bag sale at the shopping centre, with several stalls and shops offering backpacks for all ages at a discount. Cactus also do a nice line in children's waterproofs that are more durable, but also more expensive, than the ones you'll find in Decathlon.
Auchan – Kirchberg & Cloche D’Or
Aisles dedicated to all things education, means you've got plenty of choice and different levels of quality. Again it's a good place to get everything in one go, but the Kirchberg store often runs out of supplies early on, so don't leave it to the last minute. Auchan usually run a personal shopper service, where you submit a list of items you need and these would be put together for you, according to your budget, but check this service is available this year under current Covid-19 rules.
Cora – City Concorde/Foetz
Another supermarket with a selection of school supplies. The stationery is less well stocked than at Cactus and Auchun, but there's a good selection of school bags in all price ranges. You can also pick up general supplies of pens, pencils, paints and agendas.
Parents of primary aged children can go crazy in these two stores (Action has several stores in Luxembourg) because they are both cut price. Quality isn't great, exercise books and ring-bound lined paper will sometimes come apart, but it's perfect for gel pens, highlighters, plastic wallets and agendas.
Brand names abound in this stationery shop. You won’t be able to get everything you might need (particularly for kids at secondary school), but you can pick up pens, folders, paper and some stylish diaries.
Again the price tag may be higher and you won't find everything you need, but the benefit of these two establishments is that you can order books at the same time. You'll find glue sticks, erasers, folders and nice agendas and note pads. The Librarie also sells a limited selection of bags.
Either online or in store in Pommerloch or Arlon (Belgium) you should be able to pick up a school bag in any price range from basic to top-flight big-name sports brands. This is pretty much the most comprehensive choice of school bags for older kids.
If you don’t want to go to a shopping centre, you can get a fair selection of school equipment in both of the first two independent stores. Again, probably not specific paper required at some secondary schools, but definitely lined paper, pens, colouring pens, markers, folders, files and notebooks.
If your children are in the Luxembourgish primary system then Samkats is really well-stocked with books and stationery that is perfect to get your child all set for back to school.
Amazon - Order it all online from the French or German hubs. Check prices as they can differ wildly by location for things like French, Spanish or maths text books, and remember to check size for stationery so you don't discover that note pad you ordered is actually A5 not A4.