Great news! You’ve got the go-ahead for the new uniform rebrand and your team is bursting with ideas. So what next? How do you make your ideas a reality? And how much should it cost?
You might be surprised to discover that often the people tasked with managing a company’s uniform project don’t usually deal with uniform suppliers and don’t really know where to start. The project lead might be from Marketing or Operations and unsure what proportion of the Capex budget to allocate to a new uniform. More than likely, your company doesn’t have a budgeting tool so this is where the expertise of a uniform supplier can help advise you how to calculate the optimal solution for you. There are, of course, many things you need to consider. Here’s our handy guide to managing your uniform budget.
Size of range
First off, you’ll need to do pull together some basic demographics about your workforce. How many staff are you looking to clothe? What’s the male to female split? What job roles need to be considered? This will have an impact on the size of the budget from the outset.
This information will help you determine the number of items in your range as well as the size and fit of wardrobe you’ll need. The size of your organisation will also be a factor. Larger organisations benefit from economies of scale while SMEs are often restricted by manufacturing minimums as they have a lower staff headcount. This can determine the size of the range, volumes produced, where you manufacture so as to maximise the value of your budget.
While there’s usually a lot of focus on budget per head, the size and value of stockholding is often overlooked. The amount of stock held will depend on staff turnover, size of range and business growth plans. We usually recommend at least 25% additional stock to be added onto any new uniform launch volumes. And remember, we’re not just talking finished garments but also fabric, trims and component stocks for future manufacturing.
Allocation of items per wearer group
You’ll also need to consider how to allocate uniform to staff. Giving a full uniform allocation to new starters is the most expensive option as it covers the complete range. For a rail company, this may include 15 or more different items. A good way of spreading the uniform budget across years is to give a generous allocation in the first year of service and then top this up in the second year. This option works well in companies where staff turnover is high. A third option for managing your budget is to provide a fixed allocation of core range items and then offer additional top up items to staff based on a points system.
Big Bang vs. Phased launch
The type of launch you’re planning will also impact your budget. If you’re implementing a rebranding launch strategy, you’ll probably opt for a Big Bang approach where all the staff are kitted out in the new uniform at the same time, and the new uniforms will probably be funded from a Capex budget. Alternatively, you can phase in your new uniforms. This is an effective way to launch a new range while running down stock on an existing range. However, it can have less impact from a brand perspective and require clear internal communication to avoid misunderstandings.
When calculating your uniform budget, don’t forget to include a reissue budget. For this, you’ll need to consider the garment lifespan of your range. While coats and jackets can last up to 3 years, items worn against the skin like shirts and trousers endure more wear and tear and need to be replaced more regularly.
What to do with old stock
Firstly what will happen to your old range? You’ll need to allocate some budget to write off or dispose of these garments after the changeover. In terms of your new range, you’ll also need to consider what you’ll do with them when they reach end of life. More companies are choosing to refurbish more durable items like coats and jackets but be aware there are often hidden costs attached to doing this. The same applies to recycling stock. Identifying the true value of refurbishment and budgeting for this at the start of the process can save you time, money and avoid a big headache.
A more classic look as opposed to an ‘on trend’ look is a better budget-conscious option as the uniform will not date as easily. Proper planning can reduce costs significantly. Your designer can help you select some styles that you can use across departments, such as shirts, using accessories like ties or waistcoats to differentiate job grades. Your choice of fabrics in designing your range is also important when it comes to managing your budget. If cost is a key consideration, then choose fewer fabrics and machines washable fabrics. Uniform maintenance costs are often overlooked in the budgeting process – dry cleaning garments will eat into your budget too.
Sourcing and manufacturing
So now you’ve figured out what you need, the next step is getting them made. How your range is designed, where your fabrics and materials are sourced, and where your manufacturing is based will all impact the product cost and budget. Critieria such as minimum order quantities, lead time turnaround and pricing will determine where and how you get your garments produced. UK-based manufacturing costs more but lead times are shorter compared to Asia where it’s cheaper to produce but lead times are longer and there’s often a minimum order. A reputable uniform supplier can help advise you on the best course of action. And the earlier you start planning, the more options will be open to you.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and this guide is based on a contract-managed uniform budget process, which in itself can offer financial incentives for longer contract terms. A franchisee owner will have different budgetary considerations, driven more by necessity than by branding. There are many other factors that will contribute to the successful management of your uniform budget. The best way to ensure you’re getting bang for your buck is by partnering with an experienced uniform supplier who understands and interprets your needs.