School uniforms: UK parents urged to buy early due to supply issues | Retail business

The holidays have only just begun for many children, but families are being warned not to leave uniform shopping to the last minute due to potential shortages of official school blazers and sweaters.

Specialist retailer School Uniform Direct, which supplies dozens of UK schools, has written to thousands of customers urging them to place orders for branded clothing as soon as possible.

In a repeat from last year, the clothing company said it was told by its manufacturers that retailers were experiencing delays in supplying stores due to disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are currently in a strong position; however, not completely immune to circumstances around the world,” School Uniform Direct said in an email to customers. “We ask parents and guardians at place their orders or come to the store as soon as possible. This will help ensure they receive the uniform on time.

Many families put off buying school uniforms until the last minute for financial reasons or to avoid being caught out by a summer growth spurt.

However, financial concerns loom ahead of the next academic year due to the squeeze on household finances caused by rising food, fuel and energy bills.

“It’s not like fashion, where you can predict X number of sales and it doesn’t matter if you sell,” says Alex Gani, director of the London-based family clothing business. “With the school uniform, you have to have stock in all sizes.

“If we get everyone in early, we start to see in our own stocks where there are shortages, then we can fill them now and get stock levels to a sustainable level, and then be able to manage people who come to us at the last moment.

The shortage warning comes as the government faces calls from specialist industry to help tackle the cost of living crisis by scrapping VAT on school-specific uniforms, such as polo shirts , designer sweaters and blazers.

The Schoolwear association has started a petition to get the government to scrap what it calls the “school uniform tax”.

Clothing and footwear for young children are not subject to sales tax. However, for school uniforms for older children, as well as all other clothing and footwear, the standard VAT rate of 20% applies to products from the age of 14.

Clothes and shoes for older children are subject to the normal rate of VAT of 20%. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Research from the Schoolwear Association estimates that removing VAT on compulsory school wear would save every family with a child over the age of 14 almost £20 a year.

Matthew Easter, chairman of the association, said scrapping the flat tax was a “no-brainer” in the current climate, with the cost to the Treasury of abolishing it in England being around £13m a year.

VAT is levied on non-essential goods, but the vast majority of schools require their students to wear uniforms, Easter said. “School uniforms should therefore be seen as essential,” he said. “As the tampon tax was removed in January 2021 because hygienic clothing is essential, the VAT on school uniforms should do the same.”

On the shortages, Easter, who runs school uniform brand Trutex, said: “Like many industries, global supply chains have been a nightmare this year for a variety of reasons, and things have been delayed – this there is no doubt. .”

However, he added: “I don’t think there will be a big supply problem from the uniform specialists as we all have stock all year round anyway. So even if the new stock did not arrive in time, there should be enough stock in the system. »

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Edward L. Robinett