It’s in the bag

Choosing a school bag is an important part of the back-to-school shopping experience. Your customers will need to consider a number of factors before they make a decision.

There are many different types of school bag, and your customers will need some guidance when making a selection. Most importantly, they will need to bear their children in mind when purchasing a bag. Be sure to check with the parents whether or not the school has a set of rules regarding the type of bag that is allowed.  Certain schools may not allow rolling backpacks or messenger bags,  and some may have specifications with regards to style or colour. Ask your customer if the person who will be using the bag has a back problem or other medical issues. This is an important point to remember, as certain types of bags may exacerbate the issue.

Backpacks are essentially sacks carried on the back and secured with two straps that go over the shoulders. They are spacious, durable, waterproof and are ideal for heavy items such as school books. Weight can be distributed throughout the bag, and it is easier to carry on the back than in the hand. However, backpacks can be used to carry everything a child needs all the time, leading to an overweight bag that can cause posture problems later on. Experts do recommend buying a backpack rather than a bag that’s carried or slung over one shoulder. A backpack made of canvas or nylon will be lightweight when compared to a proper suitcase. The best backpacks have a moulded frame with a padded back and adjustable straps.

A backpack should weigh less than 10% of the user’s weight. If the child weighs 40kg, then the bag should only weigh 4kg. As this equates to a few books and a lunch box, children should be encouraged to carry only essential items in their bag, making use of a locker or their desk to store other items. Bags should be repacked each day.

Messenger bags
Messenger bags are worn over one shoulder with a strap that goes across the chest, resting the bag on the lower back. They usually contain organiser pockets, ideal for storing different sized items. They are made of sturdier material than a standard tote bag, making them more durable. They are designed to carry a lot as they were originally used by mailmen and couriers. Messenger bags can be made of waterproof material. Messenger bags are a compromise between tote bags and backpacks. However, carrying all the weight on one shoulder can cause posture problems.

Wheeled bags
Wheeled bags are usually backpacks on castors, and are made from waterproof materials such as nylon. They can be up to 1,5kg heavier than a regular backpack, so it is important that you advise your customer to consider the size of the child who will be using it. It should not be too heavy for the child to pull. They are available in a range of sizes, and their capacities vary. Wheeled bags have telescopic handles, and these need to be durable as they will be used often. The bag needs to have wheels that roll smoothly and don’t stick, and whole thing should be well-balanced so it doesn’t fall over. Many wheeled backpacks have straps for carrying on the back; however, this is not recommended as these bags are heavy and can cause muscle strain. 

Tote bags
A tote bag is a large and often unfastened bag with parallel handles that emerge from the sides of its carrying pouch. Tote bags have evolved over the years, and now there are many different types of tote bags to choose from. The original ones were made of canvas, which is highly durable, but they are now also available in cotton (which is lightweight), polypropylene (which is lightweight and easy to clean), or leather.
Customers will need to consider the size of the tote bag they want to purchase. Sports totes are ideal for children with extra-mural activities. They are often found in school changing rooms and clubhouses. They range in size from small enough to hold a change of clothes to large enough to hold sporting equipment like cricket bats and pads.
Additional pockets to store smaller items are useful too.
Customers will need to decide what they are going to use the tote bags for. They are not recommended to hold school books and things as they become heavy and are hard to carry for a long period of time without causing muscle strain. 

Advise your customers to purchase a bag which is big enough to hold all the things a learner will need during the school day. Multiple pouches of varying sizes are a good idea, as they will ensure that items can be stored in an organised manner. 
A backpack is usually the most practical when it comes to storing many items. They are able to expand to hold more or less, depending on what is needed on the day.
Advise your customers to buy a backpack with a water bottle holder on the side. This can be a useful thing to have, as the child will be able to store their water or juice bottle outside of the bag, mitigating the possibility of spills ruining text books or work books. The same goes for a separate, waterproofed compartment to hold lunch items.
When it comes to backpacks, separate compartments will help the child to distribute weight correctly. The heaviest items should be next to the learner’s back, and books and lunch boxes should be kept firmly in place so they move around in transit. 
In general, a badly-packed bag can shift your child’s centre of gravity and potentially cause back strain. 
Always advise your customers not to fall into the trap of buying a big bag for the learner to “grow into”, in an effort to save money. Purchase a bag that is appropriate to the child’s size, which will prevent back strain. Oversized backpacks have none of orthopaedic benefits, due to the fact that the lumber padding will not fit in the lower curve of the back, or the top of the bag will sit too high on the child’s head, pushing their head forward. This causes back and neck strain. 

One of the most important aspects of a school bag is its durability. Children can be tough on bags, overloading them, throwing them to the ground and pulling on them. Ask your customers a few questions to determine the degree of durability they will require. 
For maximum durability, suggest bags made from nylon or canvas. However, if your customer plans on replacing the schoolbag every year, less durable materials such as PVC can be considered.
Bags that carry sports equipment need to be durable as they are often full of heavy items. Stitching should ideally be nylon. Double-stitch seams improve resistance to wear and tear  

Always suggest to your customer that they purchase the best brand they can afford. Industry recognised brands are usually a better quality and will last longer. Movable parts, such as zippers, wheels and straps, are also less likely to break with use. Pictures printed on the bags will also last longer on more expensive bags. Well-known brands generally undergo stringent tests and will have some kind of guarantee. Governing bodies like the SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) have given these bags a seal of approval. Certain brands will also be more appropriate for those who have back or neck problems, offering quality padding, adjustable straps and lumbar support. 

Although last on the list, aesthetics are also an important selling point for school bags. Make sure your customers choose a bag that is well-suited to their personality and interests. Available not only in plain colours such as black, blue or pink, many schoolbags follow current pop culture trends and have pictures of musicians or TV characters on them. It is important to choose one that the learner will actually want to have, and that they will like for a while.

The questions to ask

Ask these questions when a child is trying on a school bag:
1. Does it fit properly?
2. Can it be packed correctly, with weight evenly distributed?
3. Is it too heavy?
4. Is the child able to lift the bag easily?

Did you know?

Advise your customers that when their child lifts a backpack, they should try and make sure they lift it with a straight back, bending at the knees, and that the bottom of the bag sits above their waist rather than hanging low and sitting on the hips. If the child has to lean forward whilst wearing their bag, it is probably an incorrect fitSlinging a backpack over one shoulder can cause long-term damage to the back. 

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