Dressing the Part
The hotel and travel travel market is full of opportunities for the enterprising distributor. Decorated toiletries, custom room amenities, gift shop gear, the options are nearly endless. Some of them are easy sales, some are difficult-but-lucrative, and others … maybe a little overlooked?
Take uniform sales for example. Is it possible they're not getting the attention they deserve? A bit like forms or direct mail, uniform sales are sometimes pushed off to the side because, either to the distributor or the client, it doesn't seem like something a promotional marketer is supposed to sell. People get stuck in the quasi-logical idea of, "Well, I just get my uniforms from my boring mass-market uniform wholesaler because uniforms are a boring mass-market utility. That's how everyone else does it, so why should I be any different?" But that's craziness, right?
Why should uniforms be a boring, cookie-cutter commodity? Properly executed, a uniform program can be a critical part of an institution's branding, especially in the hotels and resorts market where venue appearance is such a core piece of the product. Plus, you likely already have a ton of knowledge than easily helps you close the sale. You know your decoration techniques up and down, you know how to size (probably with your eyes closed), and you have roughly 14 spreadsheets of viable apparel supplier contacts. All that's left to do is brush up a bit on the market and the nature of uniforms (say with a list of six quick and handy tips), and you'll be ready to re-uniform the world into a brighter (and more promotionally profitable) tomorrow.
1. YOUNG IS IN
"The trend Edwards is seeing in hotel/resort uniforms is a makeover that aims to project a younger, modern, vibrant and more sophisticated resort associate," said Taraynn Lloyd, director of marketing for Edwards Garment, Kalamazoo, Mich. She explained, however, that such youthful styles should still fit in with the overall theme and formality of the property.
2. BET ON BLACK
"Uniform selections for hotel and resorts tend to be property specific and based on the overall theme or atmosphere of the property," said Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage Apparel, Avenel, N.J. "If there's one common thread, we see a lot of black," she added.
3. STUDY THE WORKSPACE
Before you formally pitch a client on a uniform program, it can help to look around the property a bit to not only judge the environment, but see what the staff is currently wearing. "Visiting the property and doing an environmental scan is the first step," said Lloyd. "Take notes on what each area is wearing. If you can't tell the front desk associate from housekeeping, then they may require a more formal uniform program."
4. PERFORMANCE APPAREL FOR OUTDOOR STAFF
"Polos are great choices for outdoor staff, and we've definitely seen the switch from cotton based knits to 100 percent polyester performance styles," said Barreca.
5. BEAT ERRATIC WEATHER WITH ACCESSORIES
For resorts that don't have the same weather all year round, accessories can be helpful in handling seasonal temperatures. "The easiest way to transition a uniform program from cold weather to warm weather is through accessories," said Lloyd. "For example, a hotel property may outfit the front desk in dress pants, white or blue shirt/blouse, neckwear and a suit coat for colder months, then transition the suit coat to a vest for warmer weather," she said. "The same can be true for property maintenance. The cold weather may warrant casual work pants, a long sleeve woven shirt or polo, and a service coat. As the weather gets warmer, they transition to shorts and a short sleeve woven shirt or polo," she explained. "The uniform stays the same but transitions easily, providing versatility."
6. TALK GARMENT LIFESPANS
Uniforms are of course meant to be worked in, so durability and overall garment lifespans are going to be concerns. The same two apparel items, say two different vest for example, could have different lifespans depending on their fabrications, color finishes, catch-resistance, etc. It's crucial for you to talk with your client about their budget and needs for the garment's lifespan, and then with your supplier or manufacturer to make sure the chosen product matches said needs. "End-user demands such as high frequency wear and laundering, continued exposure to sunlight and/or harsh chemicals, and additives and temperatures in commercial laundering processes will affect apparel wear life," explained Barreca. "It's best to check with the manufacturer and be sure your client has communicated their laundering and use expectations." Once you pinpoint your client's garment usage habits, you can move on to selecting items that will be tough enough to provide the appropriate "budget lifetime," i.e., the timeframe the garments need to last before the client is willing to buy new ones.