Over the last couple of months, we have been working with a few companies to develop uniform programs for their staff.
If you have ever done this, it is no easy task!
The first thing that I always tell people is to form a clothing committee. Too many companies try to develop a program top down, based solely on price and get absolutely no input from those who will actually be wearing the uniform. Time and time again, it amazes me how little nuances, that really do not cost a lot more money, can make the difference between someone doing their job properly, being comfortable in the clothes, feeling pride in wearing the uniform and coming home safe and sound to their family. . . or not!
Take the time to consult with your staff, get samples, have people wear them, wash them, hang them up to dry and use them in a variety of situations to truly know if the garments you end up with are up to the task. Invest in samples! It is the only way you will know if the final product will truly meet your needs. Samples will let you see whether an off the shelf solution will work for you, or if you need to work with your supplier to create something custom in terms of design, colour or fabric.
When considering custom, realize the limitations. The first consideration is quantities required. This may be fine for your initial orders, as it will save you money. However, as you need replacement stock, you may run into minimum quantity required challenges. The same thing goes for timeline. You may be able to wait the 90+ days for delivery of the initial order. However, if you need to wait the same amount of time every time you order, you may run into challenges as well. The third item to consider, and this goes for both off the shelf and custom solutions, is consistency of colour. The challenge is that no two dye lots are exactly the same, even if produced in the same plant. The only way to ensure total consistency is ordering extra rolls of fabric and keeping them at the cut and sew shop to be used as needed. This is usually an upfront cost that is not covered by the manufacturer.
Also, you may want to have your marketing people involved in the process as well as someone from finance. The marketing people will help to make sure that the uniforms are on brand. They will ensure that the colours fit with your brand’s pallet and that the style of clothing reflects how you want to be perceived when viewed by the public.
Finance is important to have in the process early so that there are no surprises. Budgets need to be maintained and someone from finance can make sure that they ask the hard questions. They can be counted on to ask about the life of garment, the overall cost of ownership and how the programs should be structured in terms of overall cost to employer and whether or not employees should share in some of the costs themselves. You need to understand that this is a long term investment as a company and needs to have an on-going budget that goes way beyond initial purchase of goods and looks at replenishment of stock every single year.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is do not rush the process. Take the time to look at options, review stakeholder data, have uniforms tested and make sure that the end result is the right fit for both employees and it truly reflects the overall brand and corporate objectives.
Let us help you understand the overall needs of those who will be wearing the uniforms and reconcile those needs with brand and corporate objectives. In the end, it is about building another piece of Tangible Evidence for your brand that helps Get YOU Noticed!