The future of school uniforms - Education Matters Magazine
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The future of school uniforms

The business of supplying school uniforms is notably different to what it was several years ago. James Marshman, Business Development Manager at Spartan School Supplies, looks at what’s changed and what could be in store for the future.

Having worked in the school uniform business for over 20 years and as a father of two primary school-aged children, I can’t help but reflect on how the climate has changed over time and wonder about where we are headed. Technological advancements, child safety measures and privacy changes are just a few of the factors that have impacted on how uniforms are supplied.

Where will uniforms be made, what will they look like and will students even need a school bag 20 years from now? These are questions I ponder often. I also wonder what is influencing these changes.

Legally, the education sector has changed rapidly as of late. Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) enquiries and new State Education Department guidelines have affected how schools purchase goods and services. Nowadays, running an on-campus uniform shop is often put in the too-hard basket and the shop is often outsourced to a third party. Whether this is to free up cash or stock-holding, or due to difficulties in finding volunteers or paid staff, the result is handing the management and all control over to a third party.

Some wholesalers, including Spartan, are now tailoring solutions to counter these problems such as holding finished stock and offering a quick delivery, or even a just-in-time Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) stock replenishment service. This solution is not new to the retail space, but it is for school uniform shops.

Innovation allows societies to solve problems. Lost property at schools has long been a frustration for school staff and parents. We recently partnered with a young entrepreneur who has invented a smart tag that allows a parent or guardian to receive a text message when an item lands in the school’s lost property bin. We now add this RagTagd smart tag to all of our jackets and windcheaters at the point of production. It’s simple, cost effective and innovative.

In such a litigious and politically correct world, the emphasis on duty of care has become ever more apparent. Schools are now taking measures that would have been considered insane when I was at school, but have been proven to be totally necessary in 2018. Ergonomic furniture and school bags, and sun-smart policies are just some of the considerations on the minds of decision makers. From a supplier perspective, the onus is on us to offer products that present value propositions in line with current day needs such as products endorsed by peak back care specialists, UPF rated garments, and of utmost importance, socially compliant sourcing.

It is common to hear of students driving social and environmental change from the classroom, and this is a wonderful thing. As we look to the future, I think corporate social responsibility is a factor that should and will be more widely considered by decision makers at schools.

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