Independent retailers and schoolwear manufacturers have criticised the Government’s new guidelines aimed at widening the supply of school uniforms.
Education minister David Laws this week introduced plans to end the practice of schools designating just one retailer or manufacturer for their uniforms. The Government says it hopes to cut costs for families under financial pressure, but industry figures have dismissed the policy as simply “vote-catching”.
David Burgess, former chairman of the National Children’s Wear Association and managing director of schoolwear supplier David Luke, said the new guidelines were “a bit of politics” with parties vying for votes. “Most schools have a very balanced schoolwear policy and the balance they have between specific and generic is about right,” he said.
Sales from schoolwear make up about 30% of turnover at two-store menwear retailer Broadbridges in West Sussex. Owner Daniel Green said he agrees with giving parents the option to buy from several suppliers, but believes the policy is just a tactical move by the Government.
“It’s not just the independents making a living out of school uniforms; it’s all the other people in the supply chain,” he said.
“I think the Government is very short-sighted. It isn’t doing anything to help the independents. If they carry on this way there will just be three supermarkets in town centres.”
Another schoolwear retailer, Tony Symons, owner of Rogers Menswear in Herne Bay, Kent, said:
“At the moment it’s very difficult to see how it is going to work. It could potentially really upset some of the manufacturers.”
Andrew Moore, chief merchandising officer of Asda, called the move “a victory for common sense”. He added: “We fully support the Government’s decision and are pleased they have listened to the concerns of tens of thousands of parents up and down the country.”
Supermarkets in particular offer generic schoolwear at extremely low prices. This summer, discount supermarket Aldi offered a school uniform set, comprising either a skirt or trousers, two polo shirts and a jumper, for just £4.