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Apparel: A good first impression

May 11, 2020 -  By
Lawn care tech uniform (Photo: Kujo Yardwear)

Mix it up Offering employees options of pants, shorts, T-shirts and sweaters ensures each employee’s attire preferences are covered. (Photo: Kujo Yardwear)

Apparel might not be the first thing landscape pros think about when it comes to their job or company, but industry experts say it’s a critical piece of a business. Apparel can help a company make a good first impression to clients and in the neighborhoods it works in.

“They’re going to be left with an impression of that company based on that person,” says Carl Atwell, president and owner of Gempler’s. “Some of that is how the person treats the customer, but also part of it is how that person looks.”

To illustrate this point, Sean Johnson, head of inventory and planning at Gempler’s, gives an example of two crews: one shows up with 15 workers in matching button-ups, and the other shows up with 15 workers in different shirts and sweatshirts.

“It’s 15 different branding moments,” Johnson says.

What landscape pros consider

When it comes to apparel, landscape professionals say there are many factors to consider — a critical one is the need for layers. The weather throughout the day and year fluctuates in most climates, and a coat could easily cover up any work wear with a company’s logo on it.

“We offer a range through our vendor, like coats, sweaters, shirts, pants and shorts. That way, (crews) can still be comfortable while representing their company,” says Maegan Jenkins, owner of Elm Creek Lawn & Landscape in Farwell, Mich. “I like a company that’s consistent and that can find a solution to any problem that my crews may come across with their attire.”

Elm Creek Lawn & Landscape provides 50 percent landscaping, 20 percent lawn care and 30 percent snow removal services to a 60 percent commercial and 40 percent residential clientele.

“Customers always appreciate a clean, well-put-together crew,” she says.

Jenkins says uniforms are switched out and cleaned weekly. The company provides each employee T-shirts, two hats, two pairs of gloves, two pairs of safety glasses, ear protection and one hard hat. Employees are required to provide work boots and any personal protective equipment (PPE) that needs replacing, at cost.

Lawn tech apparel (Photo: Gempler's)

Branding moment Uniforms can promote a company’s brand and image within a community. (Photo: Gempler’s)

Professionalism

GreenSweep in Silver Springs, Md., sees providing uniforms as a way to take care of employees and encourage professionalism. The company performs primarily maintenance and some design/build services for a 80 percent commercial, 20 percent residential clientele.

The company provides new uniforms in the spring for all new hires. Uniforms include T-shirts, a sweatshirt, pants, a baseball hat, a winter beanie and PPE for eyes and ears. Rehires and current field workers get pants every other year. “We’ve found more success in providing uniforms rather than expensing the cost to employees, but employees have the option to purchase additional uniforms at their discretion,” says Lisa Greenwell, vice president of business operations.

Sourcing services

S&K Services in Wonder Lake, Ill., had a few issues with locally sourced apparel and decided to go in-house to order and finish their items.

“We actually took on our marketing in-house. This includes all promotional items as well as uniform apparel,” says Trevor James, vice president. “Doing this allowed us to not only cut costs but also offer more promotional items when doing trade shows or community involvement.”

S&K Services provides 95 percent landscape construction and 5 percent maintenance services to a 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial clientele. S&K Services supplies shirts, hats and hoodies. James says he likes the control the company has over the end product.

 

Apparel bonus tips

Experts and pros share some things you might overlook in your outfitting search:

LAYERING — Temperatures and weather conditions fluctuate throughout the day and season. So, it’s a good idea to have layers for your employees so your logo stays visible. “The second they get cold, they’re covering up their logo and now nobody knows who they are,” says Carl Atwell, president and owner of Gempler’s.

SAFETY VESTS — Along the same line as layers, safety vests are another point to keep in mind when it comes to branding. “I’m seeing more and more safety vests, but those get thrown over other product a lot of the time and there’s no logo on there,” says Atwell.

SOURCING — Companies that control the process of ordering from beginning to end can help efficiently deliver the product, especially when you have new hires starting. The companies that have quick turnaround are ones that do everything including embroidering and personalization. “You wouldn’t buy a cake in one place and take it across town to put the frosting on,” Atwell says of outsourcing embroidery.

STAFFING CONSISTENCY — Stephanie Brock, vice president, National Workwear suggests for landscape contractors should consider a crew’s turnover rate when investing in workwear. “If they have an established employee base, they would want better quality garments for longevity,” she says. “If there is a lot of turnover, T-shirts might be the answer to keep costs lower.”

RIGHT FOR THE JOB — Shawn Langston, founder and CEO of Kujo Yardwear, says with footwear, it’s important to think about the durability, comfort and functionality of the workwear. “For hardscapes, you might need a boot with a safety-toe,” he says. “For mowing/trimming, you will want to focus on light/comfy footwear with good water-resistance and grip.”

MAKE GREAT GIFTS — GreenSweep in Silver Springs, Md., found a novel way to both reward employees and keep branding strong. “We try to use branded apparel — extra shirts, a light jacket, backpack — as employee gifts throughout the year,” says Lisa Greenwell, vice president of business operations, GreenSweep.

CRITICAL QUESTIONS — Asking a few questions before ordering can help prevent issues once the order is placed. “What is the warranty? Does the company stand behind their products/quality? What is the policy on shipping? Is it free?  How do they handle returns or exchanges if the products do not fit right? Are there bulk order discounts for larger orders for the entire crew?” says Langston.

READ REVIEWS — Durability is critical for workwear. “Thankfully, most products have a lot of online reviews so you can see the feedback from others that have tried the product,” says Langston.

 

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University and has been in B2B publishing for seven years. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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