What’s the first image that pops into your head when you think of Virgin Atlantic? Is it an image of Richard Branson, or a shiny airplane? For us, it’s that particular shade of sizzling scarlet worn by Virgin’s aircrew that leads to fantasies of sipping a martini or two while Sinatra serenades with “Come Fly with Me.” Frequent flyers know quite well that air travel is usually tiresome, sometimes frustrating, almost never glamorous — but somehow their aircrew’s perfectly-tailored crimson uniforms conjure up passion, excitement and romance.
Aircrew take their outfits very seriously. Comfort and practicality are essential, of course, but equally vital is the boost of pride and professionalism that wearing the uniform delivers, literally transforming ordinary men and women into super-powered brand ambassadors.
The language of uniforms
What your employees wear at work is a form of communication, not only with your customers but also with each other. When there is no uniform, this connection will be inconsistent and haphazard. Customers and colleagues will have more space to form their own conclusions about your company and your products.
It might be that the personality of your brand and products are deliberately laid-back and the idea of a uniform feels like it’s a long way from what you’re all about. Making a conscious choice about what employees wear to work isn’t the same as insisting on rigid conformity and everyone looking identical.
Uniform policies can be very loose, or they can be very specific and inflexible; it’s all about finding the right match for your product and brand.
In the same way, if you have a uniform but it doesn’t convey the same message as your branding, product proposition and retail environment, the result can cause discomfort. So if you are mainly selling formal wear and your sales staff are in jeans and sneakers, there will be a mismatch and a level of confusion.
Where you have provided a uniform but the quality is poor, it communicates clearly to your colleagues that you don’t care about them. Worse, it will demonstrate to your customers that you’ll happily cut corners on quality wherever you can.
If you are selling clothing and your sales representatives are not wearing that clothing themselves, it will raise an obvious question in the minds of your patrons.
At the most basic level, outfitting your retail team with a uniform will work on several levels to benefit your business. Your customers will find it easier to identify your employees when they are looking for assistance, and they will be more likely to trust the employee as the uniform helps to convey a certain level of authority.
Uniforms can also serve as a very useful form of marketing. One study found that uniforms are a more effective marketing tool than internet, newspaper, TV, radio, and billboard advertising.
Wearing a uniform is also likely to contribute to more positive feelings and behaviors among your retail sales staff. Feelings of equality, belonging, team-spirit, competence, professionalism and pride are all enhanced when wearing a uniform — and this contributes to higher levels of employee engagement, morale and job satisfaction.
The psychology of color
However, the most significant factor of all is perhaps color.
Color is pure communication. Color is one of the very first concepts that babies learn, and as we grow up, we gradually develop preferences and absorb a wealth of associations for each color. This is why color psychology is such a rich resource for branding and marketing. Color choice influences our emotions and purchasing decisions.
Ethical, healthy and trustworthy blues and greens
Blue conveys safety, reliability, authority and encourages trust. Green is associated with health, nature and the environment. Salespeople wearing blue or green are more likely to be seen as knowledgeable, trustworthy and ethical. These would be helpful perceptions when selling complex products such as financial services or pharmaceuticals but are less likely to be optimum colors for selling clothing.
Budget-conscious yellow and orange
Yellow is associated with optimism, warmth and creativity. Yellow grabs attention and is the first color our eyes pick out, so it works well for window displays and price tags. However, yellow can provoke anxiety and, for some, is associated with lower budget items. Orange has similar associations with energy, warmth and lower prices. Yellow or orange could, therefore, be a suitable choice for a friendly, unpretentious feel that could encourage sales of inexpensive apparel.
Red for urgency and action
Red is a high-impact choice that provokes strong responses and a sense of urgency. In the retail world, customers are used to red signaling sales, and using red outside of a short-term sales context may tire sales staff and confuse customers. Small accents of red or temporary red sales signs are likely to be most effective.
Female-friendly pinks and purples
Bright pink is a youthful, feminine choice while light pink is calming. Both are a solid option for female-oriented clothing stores. Purple is an interesting option that combines some of the “buy now” of red with a reassuring dollop of the “you can trust us” gravitas of blue into a shade that has a broader appeal to both men and women.
Classic black and white
Finally, black signals quality, coolness and sophistication while white can convey modernity, simplicity, and purity. As black and white are used so commonly, both can lack impact unless paired with other colors and quality textiles that reinforce the desired message.
You can achieve radically different effects by combining colors, playing with high and low contrast, using shades and tones, adding in metallic colors such as gold, silver and copper and using blends like brown, cream, teal, aqua and burgundy. Wholesale t shirts are available in a wide range of color choices to help you achieve the exact color scheme you’ve settled on.
Bringing it all together
Uniforms for your salespeople can be anything you choose. You could select simple blue jeans and a button-down shirt in a particular color. Employees could be classy and elegant in high quality black and white separates, or casually rocking Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops.
It doesn’t matter what you choose so long as you have carefully considered your choice. Practicality, comfort, style, quality, color and brand congruence are all critical factors.
Your choice can lead to a higher level of engagement in your sales team as well as increased apparel sales. Finally, when selling clothing, retail sales staff are an often overlooked resource that can showcase your products simply by wearing them.