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  • Back to school: The uniform debate on a global scale, part 1

Back to school: The uniform debate on a global scale, part 1

By Angela Gonzalez-Rodriguez


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Business |ANALYSIS

New York – Traditionally one of the key shopping seasons for retailers, this year’s back-to-school is poised to be if anything, one of a kind. With the majority of countries still figuring out the best way to return to the classroom safely, many debates are taking the apparel industry by storm. In this series, FashionUnited delves deeper in how the ‘new normal’ affects consumer behaviours and sending patterns.

In the UK, teachers are demanding school uniforms stay even if there’s a high likelihood of much of the education taking place online. British media has echoed headteachers’ concerns regarding government-backed legislation to undermine the future of uniforms at schools.

The analysis of 12 percent of England’s 3,448 secondary schools carried out on behalf of the Schoolwear Association cited by the top national newspapers showed that eight out of 10 school leaders believe school uniforms help counteract bullying and 7 out of 10 think it will increase if uniforms are removed. And 6 in 10 say they improve educational outcomes.

Back-to-School price war fiercer than ever in the UK

Assuming that at least a portion of the country’s households will need to buy uniforms for their children, various retailers in the UK have already kicked off the traditional back-to-school price war. Aldi is offering a basic school clothing basics bundle priced at 4 pounds and consisting of two polo shirts, a jumper and trousers or skirt. Meanwhile, Lidl is offering a full uniform for 4.50 pounds (a twin pack of polo shirts for 1.75 pounds, trousers, shorts or skirt for 1.75 pounds and a round neck sweatshirt for 1 pounds.) Commenting this so-called price war, Julie Ashfield, of Aldi said in declarations published by the ‘Mirror’: "The back to school period can be financially challenging and this year stands to be even tougher than usual for many."

Uncertainty over a safe back to school drags uniform sales all over the world

In Jordan, Textile and Readymade Clothes Syndicate President Muneer Deyeh told ‘The Jordan Times’ that the demand at the beginning of August was 10 to 15 percent, dropping around 85 percent compared with the same period last year. "The rise in the coronavirus cases made people to believe that learning could return to being done remotely, like in the past semester, which is the main cause for the drop in demand for uniforms, backpacks and other school necessities," he said.

In Australia, Kingswood College, a private school in Melbourne, has swapped their traditional uniforms - woollen blazers, striped ties, grey trousers and blue checked dresses –for casual polos, shorts and compression tights. Although the school’s new active wear will be branded with the college’s name and motto, students will be free to wear any combination of apparel they like. Principal Elisabeth Lenders explained to ‘The Age’, that the decision had been three years in the making, but had been clinched during this most disrupted of school years. “I think what we’re doing is saying, what’s the most important thing here, the health and wellbeing and flourishing of young people, or is it them being able to look the same as their grandparents looked?” “Uniforms are about making people the same,” she concluded.

Public schools drive demand for uniforms in India, Spain and Latin America

Various Indian regional governments such as Punjab’s have made face masks a part of the uniform for public schools’ children: The school education department has said it would provide two masks for each student along with the school uniform.

In Spain, there are more and more schools requiring uniforms, with a pronounced increase in public academic institutions expecting their students to wear them. Per a recent trade association’s research, this year, the average price of uniforms that can be bought in commercial establishments - shops, hypermarkets and department stores -, whether personalised by the centre or not, registered an almost imperceptible rise, of just 0.42 percent. On the contrary, the uniforms that are sold exclusively in the educational institution are 3.44 percent more expensive than a year ago. That said, small and medium school gear retailers in Spain and Mexico estimate their sales to be between 50 percent and 90 percent less than in previous back-to-school seasons.

Photo: Back to School 2020, Tesco UK

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