Black is the sole choice soon

Single colour: Abd Mutalib Zakaria and his children Nur Sharefina, eight, and Mohd Amir Zekry, seven, checking out school shoes in Sungai Buloh, Selangor.

PETALING JAYA: Despite the government allowing both white and black shoes for school next year, students who prefer the former might find it difficult to get the colour of their choice.

This is because suppliers and retailers are not selling white shoes, as factories have stopped making them and importers are not bringing in new stock. They are also not making fresh orders for white shoes, fearing another change in the Education Ministry’s policy that could lead to potential losses.

In July 2018, former education minister Dr Maszlee Malik announced during a Sinar Harian forum on education that only black shoes would be allowed for school from 2021.

He said all schools would be given a one-year grace period to allow students to adapt and get used to the new ruling.

However, Maszlee’s announcement earned backlash from several parties, with many saying it was a “hasty” decision.

In a circular dated Dec 7 this year, Education director-general Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim said students could use either black or white shoes for school next year.

She said black shoes would have to be paired with black socks and white shoes with white socks.

“Factories stopped making white school shoes following the previous ruling to switch to black shoes by 2021, ” said Jennie Tan, manager of Sooi Seng Sdn Bhd, dealer for Pallas school shoes in Perak.

“Most suppliers and retailers have almost cleared their final stock of white shoes. Those available in the market now are mostly old stock with less popular sizes that we are hoping to finish selling soon, ” she said.

The government’s announcement allowing both white and black shoes for school next year came only recently when suppliers and retailers had all switched to offering black shoes, she added.

“I hope the government will not change this ruling anymore because many of us suffered losses trying to clear the white shoes previously.

“The government should be decisive and considerate to businesses and parents, ” she said, adding that flip-flops by the ministry are unfair to the business community.

Tan also noted that using black shoes for school is the right move, as parents find them easier to maintain and less prone to dirt.

“For retailers, black shoes also have a longer inventory life because they don’t turn yellow with time, ” she added.

Apparel and shoe supplier Lee Chin Onn from Klang agreed, saying the government should stop confusing and making things hard for businesses that are already badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many of us suffered a huge loss last year trying to clear our stock of white shoes, thinking they would not be used next year.

“Now, things have changed again with both colours allowed. What’s next?” he said, adding that retailers dare not keep huge stock of black shoes fearing another change.

Bee Loon, a leading school uniform retailer in Melaka, is offering only black shoes and black socks for the new school year.

“We made buy-one-free-one offers just to clear the stock of white shoes because they turn yellow after a while, ” said the store’s supervisor, Khatijah.

She added that they are not in a hurry to order white shoes and would only do so when there is demand.

In Bukit Mertajam, Penang, there was not a pair of white shoes to be seen, during a check on some suppliers of school uniforms.

Uniforms supplier Quak Hup Guan said importers and manufacturers stopped supplying white shoes last year.

“They suffered major losses after the 2018 announcement.

“Even my stock of white shoes were given to charity, ” said Quak, who has stocked up about 4,000 pairs of black shoes but no white ones in his store.

Shop manager Muhamad Subuhath Abdul Wahab has also opted for black and has stocked up 1,500 pairs in numerous designs.

He still has a few pairs of white shoes left, but they are yellowed with age and going for only RM10 a pair.

“When the government first announced that all school shoes will be black starting next year, I quickly sold off the white ones at low prices.

“Some were sold at a loss, ” he said, adding that business is significantly slower this year because of the shortened school sessions and also the move towards distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Islawati Abu Seman, 46, who bought a new pair of pants, robes and a pair of black shoes for her son Muhammad Azmil Azhar, nine, said she decided to be prudent as most of his clothes from last year are still in good condition.

Checks by The Star at Sungai Buloh, Selangor, yesterday found a shop giving away heaps of white shoes, which could be due to lack of demand for them.

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