First impressions count, and for customers and employees alike, a store dress code can be a good idea, say these dance retailers.
Sephora “cast members” are easy to spot in their black-and-red Star Trek–like “costumes.” Lululemon staff mix and match company athleisurewear pieces with other street clothes. Hudson’s Bay Company sales associates wear their own black pants and black dress shirts or blouses, sweaters or vests. Practically every large retailer has some sort of dress code or uniform for its employees. As an independent local storeowner, is there anything to be gained by following suit? Plenty. A strong branding message, an instantly professional business image, visibility for customers and convenience and team spirit for employees are just a few of the benefits.
“Uniforms are such a powerful way to brand your store,” says Noel Asmar, CEO of Noel Asmar Uniforms , a uniform and lifestyle apparel company that has outfitted the staff of such well-known brands as Four Seasons and Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas. Your most powerful branding asset is your people, she says. “Every time a staff member greets a customer or pops out [of the store] for a break, you have an opportunity to present a branded message.”
Branding was part of Katie Wade Faught’s goal for her store uniform at Applause Dancewear in Homewood, AL. “I wanted to bring a unified and unique look that captured the essence of our small town,” she says. On the weekend, staff wear T-shirts that have the store logo on the front with an artist’s sketch of the storefront on the back.
2. Professional image
First impressions count, and for customers, the way your staff looks is an important element in their perception of your store. Dena Raftery, owner of Paradiddle’s Dancewear in Lake Charles, LA, provides her four part-time staff members with polo shirts in black or pink, decorated with the store logo. They can choose to wear them with black or khaki pants (no jeans). “I didn’t want to have to think about what staff might turn up in, especially the younger ones,” she says.
3. Convenience for customers
A recognizably dressed staff not only offers an instant professional first impression, says Asmar, “it makes your team identifiable—perceived to be ready to help.” Raftery has found that especially during busy times like back-to-school, the branded polo shirts make it easy for customers to spot sales staff in the crowd.
4. Comfort and ease for employees
A specific dress code or uniform eliminates the problem for store employees, many quite young and just beginning their work careers, of trying to comply with vague requests to wear “appropriate” clothes to work—a term that can mean different things to different people or generations. “My staff don’t have to worry about how to dress or what would be ‘proper’ to wear to work,” says Raftery.
Faught has had staff tell her that the dress code makes it easy to decide what to wear to work. “They can get out of bed, get dressed real quick and don’t have to think about what they’re going to wear,” she says. Storeowners find that uniforms can foster team spirit, as well, giving employees a sense of belonging and company pride. Staff have asked Faught if it’s OK to wear the branded T-shirts outside of work. “Well, sure they can,” she says. Free advertising for her brand? Check.
The Bottom Line
When you’re adopting a store uniform or dress code, keep your employees in mind. Asmar advises storeowners to pay attention to fashion, fit and function: Select fabrics that are comfortable and that breathe. “Garments should be stylish, easy to care for and be durable enough to stand up to more than 100 washes,” she says. Faught included her young staff in the decision-making from the beginning: Together, they picked a pigment-dyed Comfort Color T-shirt. Raftery picked four colors and then let her staff choose from them. “All the teenage girls [who work here] love them. They are very, very soft, and the colors are so pretty. We were even selling them to customers, they were so popular,” she says.
A version of this article originally appeared in Dance Retailer News.