long with the property sector and manufacturing, the UK retail industry has suffered at the hands of the recession, with big names such as Woolworths paying the biggest price of all.
“It has been interesting to note the difference between online and offline retailing and whether they have been affected to the same extent. Research and news reports would seem to indicate that the high street has been harder hit, which could be down to more people staying at home and shopping via the web.
“Economic uncertainty is set to continue in 2010 and researchers have predicted a rise in sales of smart business wear. Dress down Fridays have been replaced by employees dressing to impress, as the threat of redundancy becomes evermore real. The importance of image in the workplace has increased significantly and for online retailers specialising in formal officewear this is great news.
“Both the employed and unemployed want to have a more professional image to help them either retain or gain a job. This has created a work culture that is driven by both fashion trends and the need to stand out in a competitive job market.
“The majority of us spend the week dressed in office attire so the importance of the work wardrobe has become more evident. This is especially true for those who are required to wear a uniform at work - professions such as flight attendants, bank workers and hotel staff.
“It seems that the recession has changed attitudes towards smart dressing and uniforms in the workplace. Whereas before, employees may have complained about having to wear a suit or the company colours, now they want to look as professional as possible.
“A lasting impression is formed within the first few seconds of meeting someone, 70% of which is based on visual representation. A uniform should therefore embody the brand and what it stands for and it enables employees to become ambassadors for their company and act accordingly.
“For companies operating in the services industry, it is essential that all staff are dressed smartly to create consistency across the board. If someone looks scruffy, we naturally make assumptions about how they will do their job and what kind of company they work for.
“Uniforms don’t have to look frumpy or unfashionable, in fact, they will often follow the trends on the catwalks and the high street.
“The sales are still on in most high street stores and online and there are some valuable tips to remember when shopping for business wear and uniform items that can take you into the Spring/Summer season.
“Firstly, buy classic pieces that never go out of fashion – a fitted white shirt or a plain black pencil skirt for example. Unless the company has its own colours that it would prefer to use, this outfit can then be accessorised according to the season’s latest trends, for S/S10, we would recommend using bright colours such as corals and yellows.
“Our sales figures show rising sales of classic businesswear items during the past few months, indicating that savvy customers are carefully choosing how to spend their money during these economically challenging times. Spending hard earned money on a wardrobe item that can be worn year round and never dates is preferable to a trend piece that will last for one season.
“Companies want their employees to look smart and professional in order to project the right image but they may also be cost conscious, therefore buying in the sales may be the answer.
“Investing in a tailored suit is a great opportunity to take advantage of the sale prices. A plain black or dark grey suit will last for years and can be worn for many different business occasions and events.
“The question of whether to allow staff to express their individuality or to express the company’s culture is no longer relevant. Uniforms, whilst sticking to a certain look, can now be stylish and take cues from trends in mainstream fashion.
“Sharp tailoring, quality fabrics and detailing have brought the traditional work uniform into the 21st Century and looking smart has never been more in fashion.”
If you would like to send in your comments on the industry please email Catherine@director-e.com