Focus on Schoolwear Q

Can you forsee any challenges that schoolwear retailers may face in 2021?

KS: If online shopping growth is set to continue, this will need to be a critical and ongoing investment for schoolwear retailers. But the bricks and mortar, local shopping experience is still going to be vital in our view. What schoolwear retailers had to do quickly in the face of the restrictions, and did really well, such as appointment systems and click and collect options, will need to be developed so the physical shopping experience is a really positive one, offering more than an online transactional one can give. The greatest challenge would seem to be how to keep investing in these areas at a time when business cost pressures continue to increase.

MC: With the pandemic being far from over, we might face further local and global lockdowns. If we do, we’re likely to see more disruptions affecting manufacturing and the movement of goods. It makes sense to build on recent improvements, so we’ll be doing all we can to support our customers maintain momentum, no matter what the coming year may bring. It’s also important to be aware of the possible impact of The School Uniform Bill. We’d encourage those in our industry to join The Schoolwear Association and be part of the collective voice responding to it. More broadly, the actions of businesses will come under increasing scrutiny. In the near future, the true measure of a successful business will be their ability to demonstrate practices that care for the planet and people, balanced with creating prosperous communities. Rowlinson intends to lead the way in this.

ME: No-one could foresee the challenges 2020 brought, but this year has seen accelerated growth in online sales. Some have reported by as much as five years. We feel that retailers must continue to invest in this area to ensure stores are supported and customers have the option of how they want to

buy. Sizing and consistency is also key to ensuring parents are able to be sorted first time, minimising returns and exchanges that can cause added pressure. Size guides and online resources to help parents should be utilised.

Q How will these be overcome?

KS: Satisfying the variety of needs shoppers now have, through online and in store innovation and options, will keep independent schoolwear retailers strong in the face of all the challenges ahead. Finding cost-effective ways to offer schools and parents a specialist service that supports a slick and simple online experience, will need retail innovation. Sharing these practices around the trade will be a key way to overcome challenges, so being part of a retail group that can impart the new ways that have been effectively developed, is a great way. Changing with the times is essential when the times are moving so quickly, and so accepting that things cannot just revert to how they have been done before, will serve us all well.

MC: For everyone, we just feel it makes extremely good sense to order more and order earlier! Schoolwear retailers can really benefit from placing forward orders for personalised uniform, as they guarantee prices, delivery timescales and stock availability for parents. Likewise, as a supplier, we’ll be doing our utmost to improve how we plan and buy, so we can keep doing a better job of serving our customers throughout the year.

ME: Working together and with suppliers that can offer a strong ethical and environmental approach will be key, along with consistent sizing and support to ensure schools can specify and parents can buy in confidence.

October 2020 | 59 |

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