District and school leaders are constantly looking for ways to work smarter and faster. They want to spend their time supporting students and teachers, not battling paperwork and bureaucracy. That’s why Noodle Markets is diving into some of the less-explored tasks in making schools run. How can we help educators leverage resources to increase efficiency and outputs?
A surprising challenge for K-12 leaders is school uniform roll out. How do schools go about finding custom options for their schools, communicating with all stakeholders, and keeping up with needs?
We’ve worked with epluno, the leading national school uniform e-commerce solution, to break down the stages of a school uniform search. “Administering a school uniform program can be a big job, but if you educate yourself, engage your community, and partner properly, it doesn’t have to be that challenging,” says Paul Scapatici, epluno founder. Check out these tips and handy tools to improve your uniform selection journey.
1. Analyze your options.
“Administering a school uniform program can be a big job, but if you educate yourself, engage your community, and partner properly, it doesn’t have to be that challenging,” says Paul Scapatici, epluno founder.Whether your school is brand new, implementing uniforms for the first time, or changing uniform suppliers, you have to start with research. Many find that working with a full-service provider with an integrated e-commerce platform is a way to take some of the guess work out of the process. Going digital might also mean better record-keeping, customer service, and/or pricing.
You can use Noodle Markets to search through a variety of providers, and you may wish to issue a quote request or Request for Information. We compiled a list of questions that might be helpful to ask as you reach out to learn more.
2. Engage your community.
Family participation at many steps in the process is so important to successful school uniform roll out. School leaders should be ready to face misgivings no matter their direction–implementing uniforms, formalizing policies, changing providers, or even relaxing rules. Families will want to weigh in on price, design/materials and enforcement. Leverage school bulletins, PTO/A meetings, emails, social media, and flyers to get the word out. Consider day-to-day school needs. How long will children be wearing uniforms? Do they change out for physical education? How often will uniforms be laundered? How often will they be able to be replaced?
“Above all,” says Scapatici, “families need clear communication and expectations throughout the sales process. Take any opportunity you can to communicate with your parents.”Parents know that what students wear can be a reflection of their family, their school, and even their child’s self-esteem. Scapatici adds, “A decision about uniforms isn’t just about clothing; it’s about community and school pride. Though it certainly doesn’t have to be a labored process, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.” If you work with a full-service solution like epluno, you may have extra resources to engage the community, from scheduling a preview fashion show for families, to turning student designs into reality. Some providers work with schools to cleanup, optimize, or even design new school logos that will work in clothing, signs, letterhead, and more.
3. Set up sales processes.
Once you have selected uniform options, you should take steps to make sure the sales process runs smoothly for your community. Will families have to buy in-person from a local retailer? Are products available year-round? Will the school buy in bulk, store product in a warehouse, and sell throughout the year? Is there a year-round web store option to handle orders and distribution? How will families know what size(s) to order? Some providers only offer written sizing guides for families. Others may offer roadshows or sizing events.
“Above all,” says Scapatici, “families need clear communication and expectations throughout the sales process. Take any opportunity you can to communicate with your parents.”
Note: For some schools, uniforms can be a fundraiser. In fact, many schools use profits from their uniform sales or spirit wear to either pay for field trips, equipment, or to subsidize uniforms for families in need. At the minimum, uniforms should not break the bank for families. Look out for hidden costs like setup fees around digitizing logos and freight/shipping that can vary by location.
4. Develop distribution plans.
“Social media has really changed the uniform industry–for the better,” says Scapatici. “Schools have new opportunities to improve and adjust, because they have faster and more frequent communication with the people they serve.”Here’s where it really helps to go with an e-commerce solution, like epluno. Dealing with inventory and orders can be a big lift. Some schools are able to do it with office staff or parent volunteers, but it can be a monumental task to manage when you consider growing kids, seasonal and specialty purchases, and shipping! Some companies will charge a percentage of a price for shipping or extra charge for “rush” service during busy times, like the end of August.
With a full-service provider, you can negotiate flat rate shipping for families. Sometimes you can get preferential rates during designated times of the year and you want to make sure that the cost of shipping year round remains affordable to families. The best price should be when your families need uniforms, not when a supplier is seeking to unload excess inventory.
Another benefit of an e-commerce provider is keeping track of purchased uniforms, whether it’s for policy enforcement, or to identify and support families in need. With scholarship students, schools should be able to order on behalf of qualifying students.
5. Evaluate your efforts.
There will likely always be room for improvement with your school uniform program, thanks to changing needs and new technology. Check school websites and social media pages regularly, because those are often sounding boards for complaints and suggestions from parents. “Social media has really changed the uniform industry–for the better,” says Scapatici. “Schools have new opportunities to improve and adjust, because they have faster and more frequent communication with the people they serve.”
In addition to social media, some schools schedule in-person events to check in with families. This is especially appreciated when new policies are implemented, and can be as formal as a special uniform forum or as simple as an agenda item at a PTA/O meeting.
Uniform roll out is not exactly a linear process and it has many moving parts. Whether you go with a full-service provider or opt to take care of steps internally, know that thoughtful implementation with parent involvement is a great community builder. By following these steps, you can help families to be comfortable and proud of their schools–and save some administrative headaches.
Special thanks to epluno for their School Uniform expertise.
Interested in learning how epluno can revolutionize your uniform solution? Request more info here.