November 2007
Making Uniforms Work For Your Business By Darhiana Mateo

To ensure your operation is successful, it’s not enough to stock quality product, understand the needs of your customers and differentiate yourself from the competition. Success also boils down to image. Outfitting employees with the proper uniforms can promote a positive image of your business by building brand recognition, emphasizing professionalism and facilitating employee identification. Not to mention ensuring the safety of your most valuable assets: your employees. Many businesses have already recognized the benefits of employee uniforms, including hats, safety glasses, earplugs, T-shirts, aprons, pants and appropriate footwear. Let’s consider why it might be a smart move on your part to jump on board, as well as what kind of work apparel would best suit your garden center’s needs.

Uniforms as Marketing Tools

With so much competition from big boxes, many independent garden centers and nurseries are recognizing the growing need to market themselves in creative ways. Uniform-clad employees can serve as walking, talking billboards, advertising your company name and professionalism to everyone they interact with. A simple T-shirt, apron, or cap embroidered with your company’s name or logo is an easy way to ensure that every customer that interacts with your employees remembers your name. According to Cintas Corp., uniforms help promote and generate new business by heightening the exposure of your company name. Cintas, which specializes in professional uniforms for the service industry, stated on the company website that, through uniforms, “the company image is being endorsed, remembered and passed on to potential customers. Think of the amount of people who see your personnel every single day. Each person is a potential client.”

Perception, Perception, Perception

When a customer walks into your garden center and looks around, what message do your employees convey? The physical appearance of your staff speaks volumes about the way you operate your business. The sight of a uniformed employee not only makes the shopping experience easier for a potential customer by making your staff easy to spot, but it also exudes professionalism. Depending on your budget and needs, you might want to opt for a more casual uniform, such as clean jeans, a certain color polo shirt and a baseball cap. Or you can take it a step further and order customized work apparel, such as khaki pants, shirts, hats and aprons with the company name or logo embroidered, and proper safety gear such as safety eyeglasses, ear plugs and rubber gloves. In addition, consider whether it would make more sense to purchase the uniforms from a work apparel company, rent them or require your employees to purchase the apparel themselves. Do you employ mostly permanent staff? Do you bring in a lot of seasonal workers? Different businesses handle uniforms in different ways; choose the option that makes the most financial sense for your business.

What Uniform is Right for You?

There is no set formula for what type of uniforms works best. Uniforms come in a variety of forms. Whether you choose to go all-out or be cost-effective, professional or more casual, the important thing is that the work clothes look clean and presentable and that there is consistency in work clothes throughout your staff.

You can choose from T-shirts, collared work shirts (long- or short-sleeved), pants or shorts, caps, jackets, windbreakers, coveralls, vests, belts, socks, shoes and gloves. Also consider the quality of the material and whether you need separate uniforms for the summer and winter seasons. Will you somehow imprint (either silkscreen or patches) the company name or logo on the clothes — this is highly recommended — or just opt for a certain color scheme? If properly cared for, well-made work clothes can last for years and will eventually more than pay for themselves.

Worth the Investment

Some people might hesitate to allocate additional money to nonessentials like uniforms; however, remember that employees are a walking, highly visible extension of your company brand. As such, their appearance is a reflection of your company’s image. Uniforms can convey the message to your customers — and potential customers — that you are professional, reliable, consistent and organized. By viewing uniforms as innovative marketing tools and seeing your employees as valuable promoters of your company’s image, you can send the right message to your customers.

Darhiana Mateo

Darhiana Mateo is associate editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. She can be reached at [email protected] or (847) 391-1013


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