Two long-standing Melton shops say a decision made by schools barring them from selling uniforms will cost them thousands of pounds, having already splashed out on stock.
Stewart Jones, co-owner of Kidzone, on Burton Street, said he’d been told by Melton’s Long Field Academy and Belvoir High School to stop selling their uniforms, which parents can now only buy directly from the schools themselves.
The Stork, in the Bell Shopping Centre, has also been notified by Long Field to stop selling its uniform. Both shops, which sell a wide range of primary and secondary school uniforms and which have been serving Melton customers for about 30 years, are now rallying the support of frustrated parents who, the shops say, have had their freedom of choice taken away from them.
Mr Jones said: “This decision leaves us fighting to survive. We’ve got more than £4,500 of stock that is probably no good for Long Field now and will have to go to recycling.
“If I was a parent I’d be fuming. I’ve been showing customers the letter we received from Long Field and many who have always bought their children’s uniforms from us have said they’re very angry about it. It’s not giving them freedom of choice and we’ve had to let a lot of our customers down. If you told me I could only buy my clothes from one outlet I wouldn’t be very happy because that would take away my preference of choice.
“Also, if there’s only one supplier of uniforms, then they don’t have to compete in regards to quality and price.”
Mr Jones, who received formal written notice of Long Field’s decision in June, added: “Around Christmas time I was told by a Long Field member of staff they were getting a lot more pupils so they’d need a lot more ties. It takes us up to three months to get those in. After hearing from Long Field I tried to cancel the order but they’d already gone to be made.
“A lot of the schools in Melton are excellent at communicating with us, it’s just certain ones where the communications are very poor and that can have a huge impact on us.”
Hasan Jussab, online sales manager at The Stork, said: “It’s unfair for the businesses and for the parents. The schools need to take into account what the parents want. We’ve provided school uniforms since 1986. We offer high quality branded items which parents have always been happy with because they keep coming back. Long Field has said its uniforms are only available from them online but children who come to us with their parents can try on their school uniforms and get better customer service.”
Parent Michelle Clinch, who has two children at Long Field, said she always bought their uniforms from The Stork or Kidzone, especially blazers as there was nowhere else to get them. She added: “I don’t think what the schools have decided is right. If children need a blazer they need to try it on which they wouldn’t be able to do buying over the Internet.”
Long Field principal Chris Haggett said: “Both uniform suppliers are more than welcome to pop in and meet with me. The shops are fine to sell any existing stock of blazers and skirts. The old tie which they stock can still be worn by years 8-11 for this year. There is no change to the blazer.
“Long Field selling uniform is an extra outlet, we’re not the only supplier. Parents can still buy plain blazers and skirts from any supplier and sew the badges on. Many parents choose to do this and that is fine. Badges cost £1 each. The school continues to provide PE kit as it has done previously. The only real change is the new house tie for Year 7. We want to promote our new house system. This currently is only available from our school and we’ll look at extra suppliers for this for the following year.”
He added: “Parents were asked initially and were positive about the school supplying the uniform. Parents were especially not keen on clip-on ties. We are not selling uniform to make a profit, we do have to cover our costs though. All children on free school meals get a free uniform and selling uniform through school was a way of monitoring this closely to ensure we have removed barriers to learning when children arrive in the morning.”
The Melton Times tried to contact Belvoir High School but no-one was available for comment at the time of going to press.