Uniform Rental or Uniform Purchase
I’ve been in the military apparel business for over a decade now. Several years ago, an Executive Director of Operations approached me about renting uniforms for their maintenance employees. We discussed it at length, and broke down their budget and found it would be more cost efficient to purchase uniforms. Now, I was catapult into a newfound trade, the maintenance apparel business.
Was I inexperience in the uniform apparel arena? Absolutely, not. I knew the apparel business well, and I held a position in New York City as a maintenance supervisor for many years overseeing a large crew helped me understand what was needed to support the backbone of maintenance personal.
Whether you purchase uniforms or rent, make sure you gather all of the facts. You can get a better uniform program for less money with purchasing than you can with a rental program. Let’s broke this down to specifics.
Cost: Renting uniforms is similar to leasing a car. Affordable upfront cost, but it becomes more expensive in the long haul. There may be no upfront cash required, but read the contract carefully for all of the additional costs you can expect. Sure, the rental company will sew on a button, but if they have to replace the shirt you’ll pay full retail price, plus customization fees for names and logos. If you have a high turnover rate, it can be costly. Look for the environmental charges they pass along, allegedly to make sure they don’t pollute the local water and of course fuel surcharges as the price of gas fluctuates. You may even find local business taxes itemized on the bill, the same taxes you pay as part of the cost of doing business, however, don’t pass it on to a customer. Most of these extra charges are pure profit to the rental company.
Quality: Rental companies count on the economy of scale. They want you in the same uniform as all of their other accounts. If you tour the facility, you’ll see that they have an entire stockroom full of the same uniforms they are trying to rent to you. Why? Because they use these to replace lost or damaged uniforms from a program. You pay full price for a replacement and they give you a used garment turned in by someone else. Granted it has to be customized for you, but it’s usually not new. If you want a uniform of a higher quality or different from what they stock, be prepared to pay more than the original quote. Almost always your shirts will have a patch instead of direct embroidery. That is so they can remove the patch and put the shirt back in stock. If you want direct embroidery you will have to commit to buying the shirts anyway, so why are you renting them?
Service: Yes, there are some jobs where having your uniforms cleaned by an outside service is beneficial. If your employees get extremely dirty or come in contact with hazardous materials you may not want that residue in their home laundry. In today’s work environment that is the exception to the rule. In fact, most workers prefer to do their own laundry. The idea of someone else doing the laundry sounds good at first, but remember this is an industrial laundry. After a few weeks they begin to miss that newest and fresh smell, and if you pay attention, you’ll find that many of your employees go back to doing their own laundry instead of turning them into the rental company. In the industry, it’s called; “under-wash” and most uniform rental companies count on this as a means of increasing profits. You don’t get a discount for not having your uniforms washed.
Lost and Damaged Garments: Depending on the provider, contracts put varying amounts of liability on businesses for damaged and lost uniforms. Be aware of your contract’s terms regarding how the uniform provider will handle lost and damaged garments and the charges that follow. Some providers charge full retail price for garment replacements and repairs while others may account for the age of the uniform and the bulk discount prices they receive when ordering. You should also be aware of how your provider plans to alert you of any fees regarding lost and damaged garments.
Cost to Add New Employees: A common additional fee to rental programs is the cost to add new employees. Depending on the contract, fees can include the initial setup, additional fees per garment, or oversize charges (XXL and up). Some contracts will guarantee flat rates for a set amount of garments and no extra charges for larger sizes. Contracts also often include a garment size exchange fee.
Image: Image is everything. Companies often change or upgrade their image, and uniforms and re-branding are almost always part of that effort. With direct purchase you can easily migrate to a new program by simply changing what you buy. With a rental program you may be able the change the patch on your shirt, but changing or upgrading your program will not be so easy. You may have to wait until the end of a 3, 5, or 7 year contract.
Automatic Renewal and Cancellation: When signing into a uniform agreement, one of the first things you should note is the length of contract and its terms for automatic renewal. Almost all uniform programs renew automatically at the end of the agreed contract. The main concern here is the amount of time businesses has to cancel their contracts. It’s not uncommon for contracts to require up to 6 months advance notice for a cancellation with no charge.
Still want to rent? If not, look for a reliable company that can assist you, your employees, and your budget.
Post by: WJ Cheung