At an exciting, albeit volatile time for retail, most people employed in the industry – whatever their age, size or shape – are fashion aware and want to look good in what they wear to work, writes Susanne Malim, MD of Jermyn Street Design (JSD). Research confirms that recruits to this sector often choose to work where they feel most comfortable with the uniform and the brand.
That’s why progressive retail companies – both stores and in-store concessions – increasingly recognise the added value of stylish bespoke uniforms as a significant employee benefit. They understand that well designed work wear will also enhance functionality within everyday job roles – and will help to give employees pride in their work. Duty of care issues and the importance of consulting with staff on what they wear at work means that the most responsible retail operators appreciate the need to develop a close working relationship with a corporate clothing specialist. A specialist that understands implicitly both brand development and the psychology of retail uniforms.
Some of the earliest contracts won by JSD – the corporate wear company I founded in 1981 – were to design and manufacture uniforms for beauty brands that operated concessions in department stores. Early wins included Dior, Max Factor and Revlon. At one point we dressed the staff for more than 10 cosmetic brands. From the start, we understood the competition in a busy store environment and the need to make staff look great in order to attract customers and build product sales.
We first worked with the exclusive aromatherapy skin care line, DECLÉOR, back in 2001 – originally creating crisp white uniforms for their UK and French spa operations. The DECLÉOR team in London had needed to convince the French parent company that here was a UK operation capable of designing for both English and Parisian tastes – with a pedigree of working with other top international brands.
JSD came up to that mark. So when, in 2012, DECLÉOR looked to commission retail specific uniforms for its beauty consultants in retail stores across the UK, they came to JSD.
The brief was similar to that of most beauty houses operating in this sector. To gain share in the very competitive department store market – where consumers are increasingly sophisticated in their tastes – DECLÉOR needed a uniform that stood out and looked as good as other top brands in the beauty halls. Drawing on our experience in this sector, the JSD in-house design team created a look that made the wearers appear feminine and elegant – very chic, quite French – whatever their size and shape, and gave them a uniform with the built-in movement they needed to do their job effectively.
It is my belief that over the next five years, employees in the retail environment will have even more say in what they wear, and that corporate clothing will become more relaxed and more brand appropriate, to differentiate each company. Today, at JSD our focus is very much on the ways that good design and branding can enhance functionality. We are creating stylish ‘fit for purpose’ working garments, across all job grades, ergonomically designed for comfort.
It is for all those reasons that the UK’s leading travel retailer, World Duty Free, has commissioned JSD to create uniforms for its UK-based workforce since 2004. Over the years we have evolved three different ranges, consistently working in partnership with World Duty Free. Their staff are key to product sales and must always look their best. We review and update while positioning the uniforms within the wider global brand. The designs always reflect the group’s corporate aim ‘to offer the ultimate airport shopping experience’.
The most recent JSD redesign began in May 2013. World Duty Free operates stores in 15 UK airports plus Eurotunnel, and is part of an organisation that boasts over 500 outlets in 21 countries across five continents. So we have to design a uniform look that works against a multitude of interior backdrops. World Duty Free likes the fact that we are pro-active in the way we drive forward each redesign and make the process easy for them. They know they can depend on JSD to understand their requirements and deliver great uniforms, on time and on budget.
JSD understands the psychology of keeping clients’ employees engaged and enthused right up to launch. For the past decade, we have supplied stylish and practical staff uniforms to the workforce at Kenneth Green Associates. KGA is the sole UK distributor of fragrance and skincare brands that include Jean-Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake and La Prairie and so needs high profile work wear that embodies the quality brands it represents in UK stores.
The latest KGA uniform design from JSD launched to 345 wearers and multiple brands across 165 stores. Our elegant, feminine uniform introduced an innovative signature colour detail that enables KGA to highlight each of the specific brands it distributes. This is a uniform that is not just beautiful – it meets the challenges of adaptability, hard-wear and easy care. “It has always been a pleasure to work with JSD. The designers are innovative, creative and responsive to our requirements,” says Georgina Blake, Head of Training at Kenneth Green Associates.
In a difficult economic climate, which is witnessing fundamental shifts in the retailer-customer relationship, what do I see as the key factors for a successful uniform that will enhance a brand? Good timeless design, quality fabrics and components and the need to understand the client’s budget. Recognising the role of employees and the functionality they require from their work wear is also vital. Above all, we must help to build the retailers’ brands by creating uniforms that their people are proud to wear and that help to promote customer loyalty and recognition.