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Evaluating an Online School Uniform Provider & the Quality of Their Apparel

Updated: May 26, 2023

Over the last decade, consumer behavior has shifted to more and more purchases being made online. Now layer a pandemic on top of the changes already taking place, and 59% of consumers now prefer to shop online. This means that parents and students are expecting to be able to buy their school apparel online, and schools that don’t already have such an option are rushing to set one up.

But one of the concerns we hear about online shopping is understanding if you’re getting quality apparel since you can’t physically feel it. And, what can you do if there is an issue since there isn’t a brick-and-mortar to go into? We recently spoke to a school uniform expert who gave us excellent tips on managing these things virtually. Whether you are a school principal, director of operations, or responsible for uniform buying, these tips will help you evaluate your school uniform partner.

Harry Potter Style Uniforms
School Uniforms

School Uniforms

Ensuring you find a true partner for your school uniforms is helpful. A poor provider will make your job much harder because you will be fielding parent complaints and tracking down a non-responsive provider. With a good provider, you should have more time to focus on the other core elements of your job. Here are some of the best ways to evaluate a provider.

First, understand whether you need to make a change. If you are changing your logo or colors, that is also a good time to evaluate providers. It is also important to understand the experience of your school community. Do they want an online option? The best time to ask how the process was for your parents is in the fall when uniform buying is fresh on their minds. Sending out a quick survey can give you the information you need to improve your relationship or look for a new K-12 school apparel provider.

If you're making a change or testing the market, make sure you evaluate the following:

Their Customer Service Model

When things are busy during the height of the school uniform ordering season (late summer), you want to make sure you can reach your apparel provider quickly. Having a dedicated person or a knowledgeable, accessible team is critical. Look for a provider where you have a dedicated service representative as well as one that has a robust customer service team accessible via phone or chat. The latter can handle your parent questions around the clock, whereas your representative can help you with more global questions (e.g., color questions, delivery timelines, etc.).

Person purchasing coffee
Purchase Transaction

Reporting and Parent Reminders

If uniforms are required at your school, you will want updates on who has ordered (and who hasn’t) and some assistance in sending reminders. Some providers have a system where you can view orders and send reminders; others can provide reporting when asked and may help with reminders; others don’t have either capability. The best choice for your school will depend on how you want to handle this process, but it is a good question to ask up front so you can be clear on responsibilities during busy ordering time.

The Quality of Their Garments

The quality of the clothing is the hardest item to evaluate when buying online. You want school uniforms to be durable. You, kids, wear them day in, day out. They learn in them, they play in them, and they eat in them. And, you’re likely only buying 4 of each item to last 180 school days. That means each piece needs to last 45 tough days! It is hard to tell without feeling an item how good the quality is. However, the following questions can really help, and once you are confident in the answers, you should always ask for a sample garment:

  • Are the garments soil resistant? Apparel used to come in “stain-proof” varieties, but those agents were found to be harmful to children, so now “soil resistant” is the language you want to look for. It means a stain will be easier to lift from the garment.

  • Do the pants have knee reinforcements? High-quality items will have some reinforcement in the areas most likely to tear – the knees. Built-in knee pads will help the item last longer.

  • Does the clothing have fit flexibility? Kids are constantly growing; a high-quality garment will account for that in several ways. The first is with an adjustable waist in their pants and skirts. This allows for growth during the school year. The second is by offering a variety of fit styles for each garment (e.g., slim). Finally, the garments should include lycra – especially for girls' clothing. Girls grow differently than boys, and having lycra in their pants and polos ensures a better fit.

Student wearing school uniform.
Student Wearing Uniform
  • Do any school uniform pieces have comfort complaints (i.e., what fabrics do they use)? A high-quality garment will be comfortable, so understanding whether there are complaints about comfort and/or understanding what materials they use is critical. If a child is uncomfortable, they will fight every day not to wear that. And one of the things behind uniforms is it's supposed to make your morning easier. In addition, an uncomfortable uniform can distract from class, taking away from learning. So always ask what kinds of complaints the provider receives about each item you are considering, then, when you receive a sample, test for comfort.

  • Is the apparel wrinkle-free? A high-quality garment in the uniform space will be wrinkle-free – wash & wear. Adding uniform ironing as a task to your students or parents’ list will quickly end up on your list of complaints, so make sure to avoid it!

Moving your school uniforms and/or all your apparel (e.g., spirit wear, booster spirit wear, alumni gear, team uniform, and athletic apparel) online can be very convenient for you and your community. You can free up your time by not having to manage as much of the process, and you can give your parents and students the convenience of ordering from home and having the items delivered. If you ask the questions above, you can be confident that your supplier is a good partner and that your parents will have high-quality apparel.


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