THE COST of preparing children for the new school year has soared by almost 7% this year, according to new figures from a family association.
The annual research by Familles de France found a basket of 46 essential back-to-school supplies will typically cost €187 per child, up 6.8% on last year.
It is the first significant increase in four years - prices in 2010 were stable after two years of decline in 2008 and 2009.
Buying from hypermarkets was slightly cheaper than supermarkets and stationery shops, at €179, and online suppliers were found to typically be 10% to 15% cheaper still.
Most of the major hypermarket chains, including Auchan and Carrefour, are taking part an operation called Les Essentiels de la Rentrée until September 5, pledging to sell certain key items - such as exercise books, pens and pencils - at the lowest possible price.
It is the fifth year that the scheme has been running. It is usually backed by the education ministry, but the ministry pulled out of discussions at an early stage this year because it could not reach a deal with shops.
The Familles de France study has been carried out annually for the past 27 years. Another study, by online shopping site Twenga, puts this year's rise at between 18% and 27%.
The rising cost of raw materials such as paper, steel and plastic and the price of fuel for transporting the goods has contributed to the higher bills.
Some 2.9 million families on benefits will receive a top-up payment from their local Caisse d'Allocations Familiales this weekend to help cover the back-to-school costs.
The allocation de rentrée scolaire is paid out to households with an income in 2009 below €22,970 (for one child in school).
The threshold increases by €5,301 for each additional child in the family born between 1993 and 2006.
The benefit pays out €284.97 for a child aged six to 10, rising to €300.66 for 11-14 year olds and €311.11 for those aged 15 to 18.