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Six Earn Top Honors in 3rd Annual UNIVATOR Awards

 

Winning. Its a great way to start a new year. For the companies awarded a 2007 UNIVATOR, winning means recognition of their hard work in the development of ideas and products that better service customers and the entire uniform industry. It means using technology to effect change and increase company profits. And it means, in some instances, creating campaigns that put goodwill ahead of sales. In short, it means being ahead of the curve while others lag behind. It means being an innovator in the uniform industry a UNIVATOR.

The UNIVATOR Award was created three years ago by UniformMarket to showcase the best programs, ideas and innovations the industry has to offer. And while we recognize that there are many awards programs out there, we know of no other that honors the manufacturers and distributors of uniforms and the contributions to further their companys bottom line.

Last year UNIVATOR handed out six awards, and that number was matched again this year. Any company doing business in the industry was eligible, whether national or international. A call for entries went out in summer, and the staff at UniformMarket also studied company websites to determine if any program or ideas might be award-worthy and thus included in the judging process.

Award winners appear on the pages of the UniformMarket website and e-magazine and in the spring edition of Made to Measure magazine. Many awardees also will showcase the news in their own publications and use the results in marketing efforts.

The publicity is important because of a simple fact: awards do matter. Doubters need only witness the buzz surrounding the Academy Awards or Grammys for proof. Awards are not only an acknowledgement for a job well done but evidence that the winner has achieved a level of excellence in a given area or field.

This years six winners have, in our opinion, surpassed that level of excellence. Two are previous winners; four are first time awardees. All are successful companies endeavoring to find ways to grab a bigger slice of the pie in an increasingly competitive industry. In so doing, they are both meeting their customers needs and expanding the marketplace for all. Their efforts are proof that hard work and creativity are alive and well in the uniform industry, and it is our privilege to feature their work.

 

Effective Public Relations Campaign
VF Corporation

The Force, a leading public safety uniform brand from VF Corp., is committed to serving and honoring Americas law enforcement heroes. The company achieves this goal by designing apparel to meet the precise needs of police officers and by founding and supporting programs that recognize everyday heroes. Through its sponsorship of two public relations campaigns The Positive Force Award and Cops on Top VF has demonstrated its steadfast commitment to the law enforcement community and its dedication to programs that produce positive corporate and social results. It is indeed worthy of a UNIVATOR for its efforts.

Created by The Force, the Positive Force award is given annually to a law enforcement officer who has distinguished himself or herself by exemplary service that goes above and beyond the call of duty. The mission of this award is to recognize and focus on stories of bravery and character by todays law enforcement heroes. The winner is chosen by a group of his or her peers within the law enforcement community. The recipient is given a $5,000 cash award and another $5,000 gift for the charity of his choice

Last years winner, Timothy Greene of the Rock Hill, S.C., Police Department, was honored at the 113th annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in Boston, Mass., last Oct. 15. Officer Greene worked as a support professional for Microsoft for four years until Sept. 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks on that day inspired him to commit his life to serving and protecting others.

The Force is proud to sponsor the Positive Force Award to ensure the great stories of bravery and valor are told more often, explains Janet Rives, senior marketing manager for VF Imagewear. Law enforcement officers put their lives in danger every time they put on their uniforms. The sacrifices they make enable us to live better lives.

The Force is also the primary corporate sponsor of Cops on Top, a program that provides financial support for law enforcement officers who climb the worlds highest peaks in honor of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The purpose of these expeditions is to bring attention to the dangers facing the everyday police officer.

Each summit serves as a fallen officers memorial and provides closure for the families and departments that have experienced a loss.

 

Product Line Expansion and Support
Edwards Garment

Edwards Garment customers can look forward to a number of new and updated products in 2007, thanks to a product line expansion designed to meet the ever-changing needs of the uniform marketplace. The company has revamped portions of its line, adding new products where necessary and breathing new life into existing items with updated colors, styles and fabric technology. Edwards has further developed a promotional campaign to support its new endeavors, including an expanded catalog that provides valuable marketing advice to its distributors.

New from Edwards is a complete line of chef apparel featuring coats, pants, hats and server shirts. The executive chef coats are made from 100 percent cotton and have either a hand-rolled button, knot button or cloth-covered button. And in an often overlooked component, Edwards carries two styles of womens coats that flatter the feminine shape.

By adding brown to its Signature Collection of wool-blend suit separates, Edwards has taken this line to a new level of sophistication. Items colored in brown now include single-breasted and cardigan suit coats, pleated and flat-front pants, straight skirts, and high-button vests, all made with natural stretch for more comfort.

Ties are making a comeback everywhere, including at Edwards. Six new styles of neckwear have been added in styles designed to coordinate with both the mens and womens attire.

To better market and support its products, Edwards also reworked its catalog. When we sat down to discuss what we wanted our 2007 catalog to achieve, we really focused on the things that our distributors had suggested to us, says Taraynn Lloyd, spokesperson for Edwards Garment. First and foremost, they wanted a catalog that showcased our styles on location. So we were able to complete a photo shoot on location that really illustrates how the Edwards line can be used in various settings by both men and women.

The easy-to-use catalog is further designed to help customers locate the products quickly. Weve achieved this by expanding the number of pages, making categories easy to locate, illustrating how our styles can be used and providing more detailed information on how Edwards can customize garments with decoration services or custom cuttings, says Lloyd.

The book also offers valuable promotional advice. We show how various styles are put together for a retail store, medical services, theme park associates the list is endless, continues Lloyd. The catalog is a great selling tool for our distributors.

 

Strategic Program Design
Cintas Canada

Cintas Canada and McDonalds Canada partnered to create a completely new uniform program for more than 77,000 employees in Canada. The goal was to create youthful street fashion that its employees would love to wear even once they left the restaurant.

Cintas Canada was able to design, manufacture and rollout a uniform program that exceeded McDonalds requirements. This new uniform program is much like a personal wardrobe but incorporates the functionality of a uniform. And it is an excellent example of how a company looks to the uniform design to help guarantee future business success. For these reasons, the ground-breaking McDonalds Canada uniform program is deserving of a UNIVATOR award.

After three months of research and a national five-store piloting, the McDonalds Canada uniform program was created to support the first international ad campaign, im lovin it. Based on whats being sold in retail stores and what is actually being worn by todays youth, Cintas designed three sport-themed looks for McDonalds crew: baseball, basketball and racing. Each style is a fashionable fit-finished look, worn tucked in or untucked, developed with separate silhouettes for both sexes (female cuts being shorter, and slimmer with set-in shoulder seams, instead of the typical unisex off shoulder seams) and designed in a bold two-tone color block where the dominant color is a blue hue that is flattering to most complexions.

Keeping with the sport theme, crew trainers receive a woven, plaid referee shirt. Crew headgear includes a vintage-panel visor, a six-panel baseball cap and a low-crown, mesh-back trucker cap all with brim sandwiched piping featuring the McDonalds Canada logo.

This out-of-the-box apparel concept also includes a set of fashion-forward styles for the McDonalds Canada managers. In white Bedford cord, pearl gray, changeant blue/gray and blue/dark gray fashion stripe, four shirt/blouse options interact perfectly with the crews sporty apparel. Customized specifically for McDonalds Canada, the Bedford cord fabric was developed to be opaque yet durable, while cross-dyed twill yarns give the changeant fabric an eye-catching iridescent quality. Like the crew uniforms, manager items are treated with a stain-resistant finish plus a winkle-release finish for additional easy-care wear. Plus, four neckwear choices for both men and women give ample opportunity to flash a corporate emblem.

 

Innovative Launch of a
New Product Line

Perfection Uniforms

The Tennessee manufacturer launched its Ergonomic Garment Construction (EGC) system as part of its Matrix Series line of fabrics at last years NAUMD convention amid much fanfare and with great expectation.

Our goal was to take a comprehensive approach to a departments uniform needs, explains Steve Gilkeson. We wanted everyone to know that were not just in the shirt and pants business; were in the program business.

A year later, Perfection, by its own account, has met and surpassed its goal, winning high marks from existing public safety and police accounts and gaining new customers in the fire and EMS markets. Matrix is the biggest splash in the industry that Ive seen in my 25-year career, boasts Gilkeson.

The Matrix line features high performance poly/cotton twill blends with exceptional color depth and retention, stretch comfort, and a UV rating of 40+, the highest standard for apparel. While garments constructed with Matrix fabrics arent waterproof, they do provide liquid protection and internal wickablity.

Perfections EGC system is incorporated into the pants and shirts that are made in the Matrix line. EGC was developed to enhance comfort, mobility and to extend the life of a garment, all plusses for todays discriminating end users. Waistbands are constructed with heavy-duty elastic and expand two to four inches as necessary. Pants also include a one-piece diamond-shaped gusset for multi-direction stretch.

But dont be fooled; the EGC system wasnt devised as a tool to address the American populations expanding waistlines. Says Gilkeson, Yes, it addresses the seasonal weight gain that most end users experience, but the system was designed and inspired by what is going on in the athletic apparel industry. We view the customer as an athlete, as someone on the move who needs a comfortable garment but also one that presents a good professional image.

Both Matrix and the EGC system are designed to fit into an end users existing program another plus in todays cost-conscious world. You can go from a Class A to a Class B or C and still have all the components blend, notes Gilkeson. An agency doesnt have to change its entire program, which would be expensive, because our garments work with what they already have.

 

Use of Technology
Propper International

This manufacturer of official Department of Defense military and law enforcement uniforms has used its industry knowledge, technical expertise and customer relations skills to produce a redesigned website, www.propper.com. The sites creation and evolution strengthens its ties with retailers while furthering its business goals, making it worthy of a UNIVATOR.

Visitors can access information through three portals: a Resellers Gateway, which is a business-to-business platform for retailers; a Buy Online option for consumers; and a Store Locator for information on retailers.

A year of research and fine-tuning went into the sites development before it went live. An independent software company and web developer Charles Beaudry were hired to work with Proppers director of Information Technology, Devin McCarthy.

We wanted it to be robust enough to handle orders efficiently, says McCarthy. And we listened closely to our customers, because we wanted a site that would work for them and suit their needs.

Propper discovered that customers didnt like the color scheme of the existing site and that images needed to be enhanced. Chain distributors wanted all locations listed in the store search option, not merely the main store. Still others felt the current system was too complex and wanted easier navigation. All of those concerns are addressed in the redesign.

Customers can more easily select a product, style and fabric type and watch the order move through the distribution center if they choose, says McCarthy.

Information on inventory, order status and billing is also available in real time. Live help is standing by, with a Propper representative available online to help customers with questions.

The focus is on the dealers business, notes John Asaro, vice president of marketing. Our goal is to simplify the process and drive traffic to stores.

To that end, Propper employed a unique feature. McCarthy explains: Any order placed by a consumer will include free ground shipping if he opts to pick up that order from a Propper retailer. Its another vehicle a dealer can use to establish relationships with customers. Proppers effort to drive traffic to the local dealer represents the suppliers strong support of its brick-and-mortar retailers.

We take a multi-channel approach to marketing, adds Asaro. Its not just about buying online or shopping at a traditional store anymore. Research has shown that the combination produces more business than a single channel.

 

Enhancement of Existing Product
Fechheimer

Two-time UNIVATOR recipient Fechheimer is being honored this year for its use of the Freedom Collar on the dress shirts of public safety agencies across the country.

While its benefits may be indiscernible to the public eye, the product has a number of big plusses for the end user. The Freedom Collar is designed to add stretch around the neckline, providing comfort for those wearing ties. That is because the collar band and inner linings are cut on the bias, insuring permanent stretch. The amount of stretch provided is one-half to one inch.

Buttoning, too, is easier with the Freedom Collar. The device also eliminates the need for costly collar extender accessories, an attractive proposition for budget-conscious agencies. Theres no need for a new shirt if the wearers neck size increases, says Fred Heldman, President of Fechheimer. This keeps a departments costs down and allows it to maintain a sharp, consistent appearance.

There are also benefits at the distributor level, making the product a win-win for all. A dealer can now carry fewer SKUs, explains Heldman. A size 17 shirt can stretch to a 17 and a half with the Freedom Collar.

Fechheimer has added this feature to a number of styles in its Flying Cross stock shirt line and incorporated it on custom shirts for many public safety agencies, including Hartford, Conn., Police, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, Ohio Highway Patrol and the Washington State Patrol. The technology is currently used on long-sleeve, Class-A shirts. You wouldnt typically wear a tie with a short-sleeved shirt, notes Heldman.

A patented technology, Fechheimer partnered with the products inventor and has an exclusive licensing agreement.

 

EDITORS NOTE: Whats your opinion on this years UNIVATOR picks? Want to make sure your company is considered as a recipient next year? Send an email to info@uniformmarket.com to share your views or to find out how to enter the 08 contest.

 
Above story first appeared in MADE TO MEASURE Magazine, Spring & Summer 2007 issue. All rights reserved. Photos appear by special permission.
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