Selling second-hand uniform can raise valuable funds, as
well as reducing waste and helping those in need. Here's how to
make it work for you…
Update: An online uniform shop is a good idea
if you need to maintain social distance. If planning a sale, make
sure there's enough space between boxes of uniform to allow for
distancing and ensure people stick to guidelines. Payments can be
made by credit card or leave a pot for donations. If a PTA member
has a large front garden or open space, would they consent to
holding the sale for you if access to the school isn't
Why sell uniform?
The cost of school uniform can be a burden to parents, yet many
children grow out of their uniform long before it reaches the end
of its life. A poll by Sainsbury's revealed that a child will wear
an average of 480 items of uniform clothing over the course of
their school days and that parents will spend about £6,000 in total
on school uniform. Offering a second-hand uniform service at your
school helps parents with the cost of uniform, while at the same
time raising money for the school and keeping perfectly usable
items out of landfill. Expanding your service to include textile
recycling or finding creative ways to reuse what you can't sell
will further lessen the environmental impact of uniform production
and disposal. 'Parents love a bargain, and they want to do their
bit for the environment too, so this kind of service is win-win for
all involved,' says Nathalie Dawson, PTA secretary at St James'
CofE Primary School in Cheltenham.
A well-run second-hand uniform operation:
- helps all families
get school uniform at a bargain price
- provides a way for
parents to pass on items they can no longer use
- raises money for
the school - even if fundraising isn't the main focus
- creates a culture
of reuse and mend.
If you have families in need, remember many people prefer to pay
a token amount for
a bargain than have to accept charity.
Appoint a uniform coordinator
Uniform coordinator is an ideal position for someone who is
organised and methodical. Could you find someone to take on this
role from outside the parent community, such as a grandparent who
enjoys working with textiles?
The online sale
PTA secretary Anna George started a Facebook group to
sell preloved uniform online at Archbishop Rowan Williams VA school
in Portskewett (202 pupils).
'Our second-hand uniform used to be stored in big bags, which
had to be sorted each time we got them out. Sales were
time-consuming and didn't raise very much. I have strong anti-waste
values and I was looking for a way to help while working full-time.
I decided to use my digital communications skills to set up a
"Preloved Uniform Group" linked to the PTFA Facebook
Parents can either drop uniform into the office or give it to me
on the playground. Although we do remind everyone, there's a strong
recycling culture here and people know they can donate their clean,
preloved uniform. If I receive an item that's torn or stained, I
put it in a rag bag, which the local charity shop accepts for
textile recycling. Lost property also comes to us once a term. I
wash it and try to find the original owners; otherwise, it goes
into the sale. I have three storage bags of uniform for sale that I
keep in my dining room.
To join the Preloved Uniform Group, parents have to answer a
question. The school also helps us check that applicants have a
genuine connection to the school. People can see a photograph of an
item with a description and then comment or message me directly.
Once the sale has been agreed, I give the uniform to the
secretaries, who put it into the correct child's bag to be taken
home. I charge a suggested donation of £1 and people pay at the
Each year, the school holds a coffee time for parents of new
starters. Last year, I went along to promote the Preloved Uniform
Group and let parents know how they could join. We then arranged
convenient places to meet where I could drop the uniform off.
It took quite a while to set up the group and to sort through
the old stock, but now I spend an average of half an hour a week
promoting posts and liaising with my customers. Last year, we only
made about £50 from uniform sales. This year, we've made that much
in one term.'
The playground sale
PTA secretary Nathalie Dawson and preloved uniform sale
coordinator Rachel Reisner hold seven preloved uniform sales a year
in the playground at St James' CofE Primary School, Cheltenham (412
'We started using the word "preloved" instead of "second-hand"
about three years ago as it has a more positive connotation and has
helped people understand what we're trying to achieve. Our sales
are eagerly anticipated and held at the start of every half term.
We also hold a special sale at the end of the summer term, known as
the "Get ready for September" sale. Parents can see we have
carefully selected only uniform that's in great condition and that
we keep it well and display it neatly. For maximum visibility, we
set up two tables near the school entrance so everyone walks past
them. Sales start shortly before the end of the school day and last
about 30 minutes.
We try to make things as simple as possible for busy parents.
Items are neatly folded (Marie Kondo-style!) in large, clear boxes
and labelled in size order. We provide laminated price lists so
people can see the prices clearly (and to save paper). We sell
branded jumpers and cardigans for £2.50, summer dresses cost £2,
and branded PE T-shirts, polos and all grey uniform sell for £1 an
item. We only accept cash and take £80-£150 per sale, generating
around £1,000 a year for the school.
Sales are promoted in our PTA newsletter and on our three
noticeboards. They are also listed on our PTA website and posted in
our Facebook group. We recently invested in a waterproof two-metre
banner displaying the words "Preloved Uniform Sale This Week",
which we attach to the school gates. As a final reminder, parents
are sent a text on the week of each sale.
Donations are accepted all year round into the PTA drop box in
the school foyer. When the box is full, we empty it, sort the items
and store in the appropriate place. We accept all uniform and PE
kit, whether branded or plain, and ask that everything is washed.
Before each sale, we check lost property and add unlabelled items
to the sale.
To encourage people to label their uniform, the PTA has
partnerships with three labelling companies, Stamptastic, Stikins
and Mine4Sure. All three donate to our PTA when people make a
purchase using our school's unique code. Unsaleable, non-branded
uniform is stored in the shed ready for our next Bag2School textile
collection, and PTA helpers have turned some of it into "jumper
bunting" for using as decoration at PTA events. Our shed is tidy,
waterproof and secure, with sturdy shelving for storage. After each
sale, we put our carefully labelled boxes of uniform back on the
shelves so everything is ready for next time.'
The school shop
PTA chair Lynn Gadsby set up a dedicated uniform shop at
Tonbridge Grammar School in Tonbridge, Kent (1,182
'We decided to overhaul our second-hand uniform service last
year. The school allocated
us an area for a shop, we agreed to spend £500 of PTA money to
refurbish it, and we use PTA Events to sell online. One parent
donated £200 towards a washing machine and another answered our
call for a laptop. We bought an airer, iron, ironing board and
kettle, as well as storage units from IKEA. The shop is open every
Tuesday and is staffed by four PTA volunteers on a rota basis.
Parents are happy to buy from our shop because everything is in
such good condition and is well-displayed. If an item comes to us
in worn condition we give it to the school, as they maintain a
stock for parents who genuinely can't afford uniform, and they also
keep a box of old clothing in case of accidents. The PTA also keeps
many of the unsaleable items for our fundraisers: we make Christmas
decorations from old uniform, and we have made PTA bunting from old
Prices in the shop are around a third of the cost of new items.
Students are encouraged to try things on, and parents can order
using our online shop, where we accept credit cards and Stripe.
Volunteers pack up the orders, and they are given to the girls to
take home. PTA members who attend meetings and help out get a
code for 25% off in the shop. Our volunteers work hard, and last
year we made £6,500 just from selling uniform. We opened the shop
on the Year 7 induction day and made £1,500 from new parents
The community shop
Siobhan Wilson runs Smarter Uniforms, a community
second-hand uniform shop in Brighton.
Smarter Uniforms is a social enterprise based on recycling
unwanted school uniform and re-selling it at a lower cost to
minimise waste and raise funds for schools. It is operated from a
small unit at the back of my ethical clothing shop in Brighton. We
currently sell uniform on behalf of seven partner schools and
parents from any local school can donate branded or plain uniform
to us. We also run a service providing free uniform to families in
hardship, based on referrals from community organisations.
We're open 11am-5pm, Monday to Saturday, which is helpful for
working parents who aren't on the playground. Uniform is priced at
about a third of the original cost. Parents can use our loyalty
scheme where they collect stamps every time they donate, and these
can be redeemed when they buy from us. Uniform donations are
divided into four groups: good-quality uniform is washed and
displayed for sale in the shop; repairable uniform is fixed by our
team of volunteers (how much we do depends on how many volunteers
we have); non-uniform is donated to charity; and unsaleable items
are sent to a responsible textile recycling company.
We have some storage space underneath the shop, but so much is
donated to us that we also rent an off-site storage unit.
When a school partners with Smarter Uniforms we place a
collection box in their reception area, then we collect it when
it's full. We also hold a donation day at the end of the summer
term where we request uniform from leavers and ask for donations to
a local food bank. The school receives 70% of the money raised from
selling branded items, leaving PTAs more time to work on other
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