Time for a uniform change?

Time for a uniform change?

The benefits of an effective, standout uniform have never been more crucial to business

Retailers are currently doing it tough. Under pressure from on-line businesses, stores are almost permanently discounting prices, and at the same time closing or downscaling operations. This seems to be the new norm: The high street may look very different in just a few years’ time. So how do retailers adapt and attract new customers? There’s been a lot of talk about ‘investing in the customer experience’ but what does that look like in reality? It goes beyond investing in better interiors or marketing offers. The one thing the high street does have is its staff. People buy from people, and so successful retailers are focusing on using well trained, well presented sales people to entice customers into the shops. The key is to make shopping more personal – there’s no smiling face to reassure you that you are making the right purchases in the impersonal on-line world.

One of the key ways to capitalise on the person to person relationship and reinforce a positive image is through the uniform that their customer-facing staff wear. It isn’t just about branding, using logos and corporate colours, it’s also about conveying the ‘feel’ of the brand – its aspirations and those of its customers. The overriding issue is the absolute necessity for brands to know who they are and what the aspirations of their customer profile is.

Now, more than ever, brands have to take risks with their image. Some companies do it smartly, like NatWest. This high street bank has opened up its branch style and every employee is accessible, chatty, friendly and your new best friend – but they still wear formal clothing so you feel “safe”. 

Jermyn Street Design is working with a high street bank with a similar approach to re-branding and has completely changed its store interiors to adapt to the way the younger generation approach banking. The new uniform reflects the relaxed individuality of each employee but everything is designed in the bank’s two main brand colours. The essence of the brief was to put the customer at ease in the new, IT interactive areas of the new in-branch layout. Whether they’re relaxing and drinking coffee or discussing mortgage possibilities, the bank’s priority was to entice the customer in and help them find the information they need. 

Ocado also turned to Jermyn Street Design to replace its old uniform, previously supplied mostly from stock items, with a bespoke uniform that lived up to its distinct brand. With the delivery drivers out in all weathers – heatwaves, rain and snow – the design elements and the fabrics all needed to be fit for purpose. JSD developed a collection of advanced performance fabrics to give Ocado its first ever range of high-vis layered workwear.

In keeping with a brand’s ‘feel’, not all employers need a ‘uniform’ uniform. There has been a trend recently for organisations to adopt a more flexible uniform policy, enabling staff to customise their look. This worked really well for the young consumer brand of Bare Essentials, for which JSD designed a simple denim shirt that could be styled in any one of a number of ways to suit the individual wearer. While JSD was already well known for designing traditional ‘beauty brand’ uniforms, Bare Essentials wanted to go in a new direction, with a uniform that worked for them and met the distinctive Bare Minerals brand image of its natural, sun-kissed San Francisco origins and appealed to a younger demographic. Some brands, however, prefer a much more formal style of uniform. When Jermyn Street Design created a new uniform for Eurostar, emulating iconic airline uniforms, it had an instant impact. The staff uniforms looked so expensive and dignified; they instantly appealed to the hurried commuter, reassuring them in that moment that they were “in the right place” when they clapped eyes on those suits, even if they themselves are wearing drop crotch jeans, a crumpled raincoat and a weary look!

For more information, go to their website: www.jsd.co.uk

Holly Aston
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