Rush at Pattaya Pawn Shop as parents try to fund back-to-school purchases

Friday, 16 May 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 20 By  Surasak Huasoon and Jetsada Homklin

Thailand’s economic slowdown has parents complaining even more than usual about the price of school uniforms and, this year, are flocking to pawn shops to finance their back-to-school shopping.

Grumbles about the price of uniforms and school supplies is a rite of spring retailers are all too familiar with. But clothes this year basically are the same price as 12 months ago, one shop owner said. The difference is maybe 20 baht.

Parents line up to finance their back-to-school shopping at Pattaya Pawn Shop.Parents line up to finance their back-to-school shopping at Pattaya Pawn Shop.

With the country’s economy slowing due to prolonged political turmoil, everyone is watching their baht, however. Pattaya Pawn Shop manager Supha Khamngam said business is up 20 percent as parents mortgage gold ornaments, gold sticks, diamonds, golden Buddha statues, snake belts, silver ornaments, watches, electrical appliances and mobile phones to pay for school.

Rather than have people turn to loan sharks, the government has topped off coffers at the Pattaya Pawn Shop on Soi 6 with 3 million baht a day in reserves. Loans run four months - although a one-month extension is available - and max out at 100,000 baht. Interest rates are 0.5 percent for loans of up to 5,000 baht, 1 percent per month for up to 30,000 baht and 1.25 percent monthly up to 100,000 baht. Penalties for late payments apply.

Mae takes daughter Pui to buy her school and Girl Scout uniforms.Mae takes daughter Pui to buy her school and Girl Scout uniforms.

Wanpen Kaenphirom, 49, was out May 2 buying uniforms and supplies for her teenage children. She said some years her expenses run 10,000 baht, forcing her to pawn items to pay the bill. Still, she said, it’s worth it as she wants her children to have the best education possible.

The hotel employee, however, had the aisles of the uniform shop almost to herself. Many stores are reporting slower sales than usual.

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