Home News School uniform supplier Monkhouse apologises as parents complain of order delays

School uniform supplier Monkhouse apologises as parents complain of order delays


Parents are calling on headteachers across Bristol to loosen school uniform rules when term starts next week, after the city’s uniform supplier apologised for major delays in fulfilling orders.

The boss of uniform retailer Monkhouse said he has been in touch with schools to tell them of the problems, as parents launch a petition calling for change.

Thousands of angry parents in Bristol have already signed the petition, urging action in the short term to stop the prospect of children being sent home from school for not having all the correct uniform, and action in the long term to end the monopoly of supplying what are required items for children to access education in the city.

READ MORE:Pupils ‘in tears’ after being forced to wear ‘ill fitting’ uniform from stock cupboard

Parents have been told that anything ordered either in shop or online after August 11 will not arrive in time for the new school year in September, and frustrated parents have been queuing outside Monkhouse’s shops in Bedminster, Stoke Gifford and Yate. The firm also has branches in Gloucester and Swindon.

The Manchester-based national chain Monkhouse recently acquired Bristol’s other uniform supplier, Famous Schoolwear, and their shops in the city were either re-branded or closed down.

The firm now supplies almost every school in the city – and particularly the academy secondary schools which require pupils to wear branded or badged blazers.

In a statement shared with Bristol Live, managing director Peter Monkhouse apologised to all parents who have had problems.

‘International shipping issues’

“We fully appreciate and share parents’ concern over receiving school uniforms in time for the start of school, but like many other businesses in the UK, our stock supplies are being affected by international shipping delays caused by Covid,” he said.

“Although we ordered stock earlier than ever to try and combat Covid complications, these shipping delays means we are still waiting to receive seven per cent of our Bristol stock and we sincerely apologise for the frustration this is causing.

“We have been in close contact with the local schools that are affected since April, to keep them fully aware of the pandemic-related shipping challenges that are affecting uniform supplies, and we are continuing to work hard to help families get ready for school.”

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He added: “To help keep our customers and staff safe, we set up a 1-2-1 appointment system this year and have conducted more than 8,800 1-2-1 appointments for Bristol schools parents so far, with a high customer service rating overall.

“However one of our stores was affected by the pingdemic and staff testing positive on the same day, causing it to close. While our team immediately started contacting those with appointments, unfortunately we were not able to reach a small number of people in time and we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this caused them.”

That is understood to be a reference to the closure of the Stoke Gifford store, which supplied uniforms to parents across the whole of north Bristol.

A petition to highlight the firm’s monopoly and the lengthy delays being experienced by parents has been signed by thousands of people.

‘Something has got to give’

It was set up by Ellen Sanders, who has children at primary school in north Bristol. “This year particularly, something has to give – in the short term, surely schools have to accept that the reality is that parents with the best will in the world will not be able to get every single item of uniform the schools insist upon in time for September,” she said.

“And they must accept that for most parents, what that will mean is buying the generic version from a supermarket, and then not being able to rush out immediately and buy the right uniform – they will wait for the polo shirt to wear out or be outgrown before they replace it with the branded thing.

“But in the long term, things have to change. The fault is in the system. Monkhouse are now the only supplier in the Bristol area, and there is no incentive for them to improve in terms of price or quality of service.

“The system is flawed. The Competition and Marketing Authority, which is supposed to keep a check on monopolies, told [education secretary] Gavin Williamson that it was not right that parents were the subject of this monopoly, but it hasn’t changed,” she added.

Schools following Bristol City Council’s term dates are due to welcome pupils back from next Thursday (September 2), although some have a later start due to inset days.

Ms Sanders said she was one of the parents left missing their slot to get school uniform in 1-2-1 sessions. While Monkhouse blamed Covid for supply delays, she alleged that the issues with customer service and supply pre-date the pandemic.

‘No other choice’

She claimed: “The Stoke Gifford branch has been closed without notice when those with booked appointments have arrived. The same branch has only one operational till for both orders and processing payments. Paying for items this week has taken over 50 minutes. The supplier has a history of delays in orders.

“Parents currently have no other choice to purchase new uniform as schools contribute to grant this supplier a monopoly on branded items.”

Among the biggest school chains to use Monkhouse in Bristol are the Oasis Multi Academy Trust group, which run primary and secondary schools across Bristol, each with their own required uniform policies.

The Monkhouse school uniform store in Stoke Gifford, north Bristol

Oasis Academy Trust did not respond to Bristol Live’s enquiries today (Monday, August 23), but did warn parents of issues in September’s supplies in the middle of June.

In a tweet and message to parents on June 14, Oasis Academy Brislington reported: “As term draws to a close, we’re already looking ahead to September. Our uniform provider Monkhouse is working hard to make sure that despite the challenges posed by international shipping, Covid and Brexit, our parents will be able to find everything they need.

“This is a reminder that the best way to ensure your child has all the uniform they need in good time for the start of the school year is to shop early, if this is possible for you. Thank you for understanding. We know not all parents are able to shop early, but the challenges posed when large numbers of families shop in the last two weeks of August is something we are all keen to avoid,” they added.

Ms Sanders said many parents were unlikely to have planned to buy school uniform for their children in June. “Most parents I know will have thought about it after a couple of weeks of the summer holiday. Those six weeks are when kids get a growth spurt, and no one is going to buy their school uniform for September in June,” she said.

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