Opportunities - Uniform Look

School Uniforms Present A Growing Market For Distributors

UniformsThe use of school uniforms in many districts – including public schools – is growing in the United States. In fact, the Education Administration Association reports that uniform adoption has grown by 21% in the U.S. in the past five years. This is a trend that distributors can capitalize on.

First, you have to know what matters to three audiences: the school administrators, the parents and the kids. Maurina Billere, account executive at uniform provider Executive Apparel (asi/53418), counts continuity, comfort, easy care and school identity among the key components for a school uniform program.

"Our 'decider' is Mom, so we have to be careful to give the product a long life for big families and make them easy-care," Billere explains.

She also encourages salespeople to think broadly about the scope of a uniform. "Sell the full package," she says. Consider all the pieces such as blazers, pants, shirts, ties and more that make up an entire outfit.

Another tip is to research the many special clubs and activities a school may offer. Each may need a distinctive uniform. This could be a sports team or physical education program in need of athletic uniforms or an academic club such as a debate team with a need to look sharp. Dressing each audience requires very different garments. You must weigh the demands that will be placed on the uniform, observe school color standards and keep style in mind.

Though it can be very rewarding to land a school uniform program, it is not without challenges. One of the trickiest aspects is size. "Always use a fit line (samples that ensure proper fit) of the product you are going to supply," Billere advises. "Promotional products people will have to plan fitting days, as they won't be able to service schools otherwise. Take names and sizes!"

A final prudent measure is to double-check sizes and fit before you do the embroidery or add emblematic patches. A decorated garment is not likely to be an exchangeable one.

Timing is another aspect that requires careful planning. "Promotional apparel sales reps need to discuss school uniform programs well in advance of the school year in order to give everyone enough time for input on the styles selected, and to insure that it fits into their budget and timelines for delivery," says Taraynn Lloyd, spokesperson for Edwards Garment (asi/51752).

Then, discuss future program needs. Ideally these garments will be the official school uniform for years to come, and therefore what you've chosen needs to remain readily available for new students and as replacement pieces.

"Once garments are selected for the uniform program," Lloyd says, "work closely with the supplier to ensure that these styles and colors are in stock."