Volume 2 | Issue 2 | Year 2006

Industry studies estimate that more than 45 million people in the U.S. are wearing employer-specific work apparel to their jobs each day. In no small part, that’s because companies are discovering that a uniformed workforce can create a professional image that influences customer purchasing decisions in their favor.

In other words, all business variables being equal, such as product quality and pricing, behavioral studies have shown that customers will generally attempt to narrow the field of competitors by seeking out specific reasons why a company should not be awarded their business. That’s where an organization’s image can come quickly into play. And standing in the very forefront of every company’s image are its employees and how they’re attired. If they’re appropriately uniformed, customers inevitably view them as more professional and as taking greater pride in their work and, therefore, believe they will do a better job. Conversely, if employees pay scant attention to their appearance, customers can begin to have some doubts about the quality of the products or services they’re being offered.

How concerned companies have become with their appearance is underscored with statistics compiled by the Uniform & Textile & Service Association (UTSA) which revealed that the ranks of people who currently wear uniforms to work in the U.S. are growing by nearly 1.2 million on an annual basis.

Natural Customer Biases

Customer biases for preferring to deal with companies that have uniformed employees have also been clearly documented in a study sponsored by the UTSA and conducted by J.D. Power and Associatesr. Some summary points from that study include:

Customers have more confidence and trust in employees wearing uniforms;

Customers believe that uniform employees are more credible than non-uniformed employees;

Educated customers feel more comfortable explaining their purchase requirements to uniformed employees;

“Return” customers have a stronger preference for uniformed employees than “occasional” customers do.

When you combine the annual growth rate in uniformed employees with the conclusions made by the J.D. Power/UTSA study, it’s clear that the competitive edge in today’s marketplace continues to shift toward companies with professionally attired employees.

3 Program Options

Companies have three choices when adopting a uniform program for their employees: rent, lease, or purchase. It all basically comes down to how much program management responsibility the employer wishes to assume. A rental program is becoming the choice for many companies because it keeps them out of the uniform management business and allows them to remain focused on their particular areas of business expertise, and actually saves them money in the long run.

More specifically, rental programs are turnkey in nature. The uniform supplier is responsible for providing all the required clothing, for picking up soiled clothes each week, and for returning freshly laundered and finished garments. If any apparel is worn out or damaged, the supplier automatically makes repairs or provides replacement garments as needed. And, as there is no up-front investment required or inventory to maintain, the renting option is ideal for many companies.

Also, a company may wish to purchase uniforms outright and manage their own program. Of course, in this case, they or their staff will be responsible for all the cleaning and maintenance of the garments. And the company’s management must oversee and monitor the condition of all uniforms, mandate or make any required repairs, track clothing inventories, make purchases for new employees, and replace apparel as they become damaged or ill fitting.

Whatever uniform option a company selects, the one with the more professional looking employees will undoubtedly find itself consistently dressed for success no matter how stiff the competition becomes.

Dennis Assad is senior vice president, sales and marketing at UniFirst Corporation, leading supplier of work clothing, uniforms, and careerwear to businesses of all sizes and types. The company also provides facility services cleanliness products, such as restroom items and floor mats. Call (800) 225-3364 or visit: www.unifirst.com.

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