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BTS 2015 school uniform buying trends review
Verdict releases findings on BTS 2015, including online equating for one-third of school uniform spend.

By Laura Turner

13 October 2015

Over July, August and September, retail consultancy, analyst and research report provider Verdict tracked UK parents’ buying behaviour for school uniform. 
 
Findings revealed 27.7 per cent of parents with school-aged children bought school uniform in July, with 57.1 per cent of school uniform shoppers being women. Age-wise, 38.1 per cent of shoppers were 35-44 years, shopping mostly for age 10-14 year olds. Despite a smaller population size, 30 per cent of July’s school uniform shoppers bought uniform for children aged 3-4, highlighting the importance of the pre-school market. Over 50 per cent of parents were buying for children aged 5-14, compared to 28.1 per cent for 15-18 year olds. And, less than one third, at 29.2 per cent, shop once every six months for uniform, while 22.5 per cent shop every school holiday.
 
In relation to spend, one-third of parents spent between £41 and £70 in July, with 17.1 per cent of parents spending less than £20 and one-quarter of parents spending more than £91 in the same month. Online shopping spend equated for 34.4 per cent of school uniform expenditure, rising to 37.3 per cent for male shoppers.
 
Asda was the most shopped retailer, with 37.6 per cent of school uniform shoppers in July making a purchase, with the retailer benefiting from heavily marketed ranges driving footfall. School uniform specialists were the second most shopped, with 19 per cent of school uniform shoppers making a purchase, followed by Tesco, with 18.6 per cent of shoppers. Sainsbury’s “must increase appeal and better showcase price and product durability credentials”, with just under 6.0 per cent of school uniform shoppers making a purchase with the retailer in July. Despite Primark being the largest childrenswear retailer in the UK, with a forecast 10 per cent market share in 2015, it ranked 12th in July’s survey, with just 3.8 per cent of school uniform shoppers purchasing its school uniform. Clarks was the most shopped footwear specialist, ranking sixth, and far exceeding 16th-placed Brantano. It was also identified that women were more likely to frequent the grocers, while men prefer M&S, John Lewis and Matalan.
 
In product, shirts and blouses were the most shopped items, with 32.7 per cent of school uniform shoppers making such a purchase in July. Just under a quarter of July’s school uniform shoppers, 24.3 per cent, bought shoes, while just 6.2 per cent purchased trainers due to their longer lifecycle and the purchase being less prompted by children returning to school. A total of 13.2 per cent of school uniform shoppers bought bags/satchels, with uniform specialists, Asda and Clarks being popular destinations.
 
Key purchase influencers evident in Verdict’s research included more than 90 per cent of parents with school-aged children stating price, product durability, and product aftercare/washability as the most important criteria when assessing from which retailer to buy school uniform. While price and value for money rank in the top four most important drivers, multipack offers and promotions rank eighth, with 77 per cent of parents stating this as a driver; retailers, therefore, cannot rely on price wars and short-term promotions to win parents’ loyalty. 
 
Customer service/fitting expertise is the least important factor for parents, with only 65 per cent mentioning it as an important criterion when they assess from which retailer to buy school uniform. 
 
Easy iron/non-iron fabric is the most important school uniform attribute for parents, followed by scuff resistant shoes; 60.7 per cent of shoppers would be prepared to pay more for the latter, allowing retailers to extend price architectures and encourage trading up.
 
 
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