Business uniform suppliers like Cintas have been wildly successful. The academic uniform business can learn a thing or two from the Cintas’s of the world. Can similar success be found in academic uniforms? So far the company has a compelling and fair proposition. Let’s take a look.
Educational Outfitters is attempting to establish a national presence with academic uniform stores through franchising.
The company claims to be the first franchise opportunity that offers retail stores selling school uniforms and dress code apparel. Their customers are parents of students enrolled in Kindergarten through 12th grade at private, parochial, Christian and public schools.
- no well-known national retail store chain
- even if uniforms are purchased through a catalog, embroidery of the school’s emblem is usually done locally
- local store competition is disorganized
- more and more schools moving towards requiring uniforms
- the Department of Education promotes uniforms
- expanding to supply non-school uniforms is possible (sports uniforms, local business uniforms)
- high repeat business during elementary/high school
- no national advertising fee, 3% must be spent locally at franchisees discretion (can be rebates/kickbacks to schools)
- opportunity for non-academic embroidery service and promotional merchandise
- local relationships with school officials may initially be a hurdle
- uniform sales are seasonally weighted
- online and mail order competition is growing (i.e. Land’s End)
- school uniforms are a commodity priced product, must compete on service, price and convenience
- possible trademark issue in Texas
I thought about this business, and maybe they can improve on the marketing angle by selling the uniforms in a flat-fee uniform service for students. For example, $75 will give the student a uniform with up to 3 “free” exchanges for new uniforms over the year in case of stains, rips or size changes. This worry free approach will enable premium pricing, give parents peace of mind, and tells a simple differentiating story. Or, perhaps they can rent used uniforms for a lower price if the fabric can last that long. Both are examples of moving towards the Cintas uniform rental model.
In my opinion, Educational Outfitters has the makings of successful franchise. The fee structure is fair, the market is growing, non-academic embroidery can supplement income, uniform purchases are required for many students, and the competition is generally inexperienced at competing with aggressive multi-unit retail powerhouse. I’d buy it!