August 4, 2009

Student uniform industry wears well in recession

Joseph R. Perone The Star–Ledger

Department stores are having such trouble moving designer fashions they are turning to house brands to try to drum up sales in a weak retail environment.
But there is one kind of apparel that seems to be recession–proof even though it isn’t exactly fashion forward: the school uniform.
The student uniform industry, with $1 billion in annual sales, is expected to grow 3 percent to 5 percent this year.

The student uniform industry, with $1 billion in annual sales, is expected to grow 3 percent to 5 percent this year as it adds more school systems to its roster of customers. This is the busiest time of the year for school uniform sellers, who move 90 percent of their products between July and September.
Major urban districts that use student uniforms include New York City, Dade County, Fla., Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Oakland and Long Beach, Calif.
Nearly 2,400 students in the Asbury Park School District will begin wearing uniforms this fall.

The uniform supplier is a company called French Toast, which has about 100 employees in Middlesex County, along with a 600,000–square–foot warehouse. French Toast also supplies other districts around the state.

Luckily for the students, the uniform styles are not the dreaded tartan–pleat skirts and blazer nightmares of their parents’ youth.

The uniforms, which are showing up on kids in public, private and charter schools, are updated and hip enough to be featured on many TV shows and movies. An entire uniform wardrobe costs about $120, roughly the cost of two pairs of designer jeans, according to French Toast.