Monday, 24 April 2017

Counting the real value of uniform

Children’s clothing is big business. According to a report recently published by analysts Euromonitor, the growth of the children’s wear market here in the UK overtook that of both menswear and womenswear last year and it is set to grow by a further 13% in the next five years to around £6 billion.

Experts say that parents are both making more frequent purchases of ‘on-trend’ high street fashion items and investing in higher-end designer brands, drawn to ranges from the fashion designer brands as well as sport brands for their children.

It’s surprising then, that the cost of school uniform is still regularly reported to be a concern for parents who then purchase the top end items for their children to wear out of school.

Research carried out by Oxford Brookes University last year showed that, compared to everyday clothing items, good quality school uniform actually constitutes excellent value.  A survey of 2,000 parents, showed that a single garment to be worn out of school could cost an average of £46.58, that’s £13.10 more than the average cost of a full primary school uniform which came in at £33.48, excluding PE kit.

Part of the problem, in our view, is that expectations of what uniform should cost has been driven by the pricing in supermarkets, who often supply uniform during back to school time at reduced prices as a promotional tool to get customers through the door. These super-markets often then move onto the next promotion (usually Halloween) while the traditional suppliers to schools offer the stock all year around and cover all the sizes so that every child is suitably clothed.

Another key factor is buying habits. Because of the seasonal nature of the school year, many parents buy all their children’s uniform in one go, often at the last minute, which can make it feel like a large purchase. This usually only happens at the start of a child’s school life and again at year 7 when children start senior school, the rest of the time it is usually replacement items and of course the quality and durability of the garments is then very important.

Whilst Schoolwear suppliers and schools are very mindful about cost, we think that parents should be thinking differently about uniform – both in terms of what they are prepared to pay for it and the way they purchase it.

After all, these are the clothes our children wear most of the time – nearly 2,000 hours a year, in fact. Why would we want to invest less in that than the clothes they wear occasionally in the evenings or at weekends?

David Burgess, Chairman of the Schoolwear Association

Schoolwear Association’s Chair shares his thoughts in Education Today