Thursday, 15 October 2015

Statement in response to Competition and Markets Authority issuing an open letter to schools, governors, retailers and suppliers regarding competition within the school uniform market

“As the organisation representing all those involved in the supply of schoolwear, we have been asked to be part of the process looking into competition within the schoolwear market, and we are keen to participate.

“Our first priority is that every child should be able to go to school in a smart, well-made, school-specific uniform.

“Parents and schools understand the benefits of good quality uniform, which have been well documented and include improved learning, behaviour and wellbeing.

“We encourage schools to seek value by providing advice on garment selection and competitive tendering. We have lobbied the government to remove VAT on school uniform and to enable a voucher scheme, similar to childcare vouchers. Many of our members work with schools to help disadvantaged families to have access to uniform, and we also advise schools on affordability initiatives such as savings clubs.

“We are anxious that the focus on school uniform should not be solely on price at the expense of poorer quality. Well-made, long-lasting uniform is not only better value in the long term but also the most environmentally sustainable option, and we should remember that children spend an average of ten hours a day in their uniform so comfort and durability are vital.

“Our members are often local, independent family businesses who feel a genuine responsibility to provide quality products at the most competitive prices to local schools and parents. Responsible schoolwear specialists encourage schools to use a sensible mix of school specific products with generic garments that are available from numerous sources, so schools create a smart corporate look at an acceptable price.

“There are some benefits to sole supplier arrangements, particularly because a single supplier is dedicated to the school and required to stock uniform all year round in all sizes. When there are two or more suppliers, that sense of duty diminishes, and the school has less power to demand best value and service levels. If a school decides on a sole supplier arrangement, we strongly recommend periodically putting contracts out to tender where quotations can be compared on quality, service levels, year-round stocking, ethical sourcing and price.”

David Burgess, Chair of The Schoolwear Association

The Schoolwear Association was formed in 2006 to promote the benefits of school specific uniform and to establish strong standards in the supply chain of garments to parents and schools.

The Association is proud to have in excess of 200 supplier and retail members who pay a subscription to support the work of the Association. The industry has adopted a code of practice and works with schools to further the provision of good school uniform and all the benefits that confers on both the school, and the students. Their members supply 75% of all schools in the UK.