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Back to school: Uniform shopping in the new normal created by the coronavirus pandemic

The ritual of school uniform shopping in the new normal.
The ritual of school uniform shopping in the new normal.

For their first day at school or their step up to secondary school, buying the uniform is an exciting moment for children and young people.

Even for those returning to class a few inches taller than they were this time last year, getting kitted out with new shoes, trousers or a skirt and a fresh PE kit is a ritual of the summer holidays.

In the new normal created by the coronavirus pandemic, however, getting decked out in school colours for next week’s return has been a different experience.

For younger children in particular, getting measured up for their blazer or trying on shoes might have been the first time they had been a shop for several months.

We spoke to a school uniform outlet to find out how trade was faring early in the holidays, and what special measures were in place to prevent infection spread.

First blazer

Customers wearing face masks queued to get into BE Schoolwear in Dundee for branded uniforms.

At BE Schoolwear’s Dundee shop there was a queue of customers at the door, as the number allowed in at one time was limited.

When we visited, the requirement for face masks to be worn had just come into force and customers and staff were sticking to the rules.

Four-year-old Olivia Lindsay tried on a blazer for her first day at Craigiebarns Primary School, in the city, watched proudly by parents David Lindsay and Gemma Dunn.

David said: “This is her first time in a shop since it all started.”

Before they headed off to buy shoes, Gemma said she was anxious about taking her daughter out shopping but Olivia was really excited about school and to get her uniform.

Children excited

Sales assistant Joseph Heath said: “We still have younger children coming in dead excited and running around the shop. Parents are very excited as well coming in, there are just less of them.”

Sales assistant Joseph Heath serves a customers at BE Schoolwear from behind a screen.

Sales at Berwickshire-based BE Schoolwear, which supplies uniforms embroidered with school logos and also has a shop in Kirkcaldy, were said to be great considering the circumstances.

William Smillie, operations manager said: “There has been a big shift to online ordering, where we have since a 50% increase.

“We found this challenging at the start due to trying to clear through the backlog due after being closed for around two months, but we now have a back shift so are currently shipping around 1,200 orders per day.

There has been a big shift to online ordering, where we have since a 50% increase.”

William Smillie, BE Schoolwear

“The shops have also been up against previous years on weekly sales since opening but that is probably down to the fact we have been closed for so long and some customers really want to see items and try them on.”

As well as limiting the number of customers in store at one time, the company’s shops had hand sanitiser dispensers, one-way systems and screens at the tills. Customers were also able to fill in order forms while waiting in the queue.

Uniform mainstay Marks & Spencer has offered a longer than usual discount period for its schools range.

A spokesman said: “With a new school year just around the corner, at M&S we’re focused on offering customers everything they need to ensure a smooth return.

“We have robust measures in place at our stores so that customers can shop with confidence, including monitoring the number of customers in and out, regularly cleaning touch points like trollies and baskets, and extensive signage to encourage social distancing.”

Is uniform required?

Many parents were left wondering for some time whether uniform would be required for the coming term.

While schools were still preparing for blended learning before the summer holiday, they were left to decide their own uniform policy.

Most recommended pupils still wear uniform, but others took a different approach.

Some Tayside and Fife schools will not enforce uniform when pupils return

Monifeith High School decided pupils should wear blue hooded sweatshirts – to be issued on the first day of term – instead of blazers, shirts and ties, to allow them to be laundered for the next day.

Perth High School took a similar approach, stating pupils should wear casual clothes suitable for physical activity and for machine-washing when they get home. Blairgowrie High School also told pupils to wear “comfy and washable clothes”.

Should clothes be washed more frequently?

Scottish Government advice issued on July 30 is that school uniforms and clothing should be washed as normal.

Most schools have since issued their own guidance, advising pupils to wear uniform as usual.

SURVEY: Dozens tell us their views on their children’s return to school – and you can too for chance to win £50 M&S voucher

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