Company Uniforms--Renting vs. Owning

  • May 26, 2021

Company Uniforms--Renting vs. Owning

Several years back, I visited one of my regular clients on a normal follow up to discuss some products we had done for them.  During the discussion, she vented to me about her company’s uniform rental contract.  It was coming up for renewal and it fell on her to review the contracts, examine the costs, and report back to her bosses what she was finding.

Being in the energy sector, this client had the extra expense and responsibility of providing FR (flame resistant) apparel to their shop and field employees.  Not only was this expensive, but the contract was restrictive, binding for a long term, and the FR apparel they had been using from this service was uncomfortable, “cheap” looking, and didn’t reflect the image this company wanted its employees to present.

As is normal for me, I took this as a challenge.  After a lot of research, we were able to put together a purchase program for this client that solved all their issues and, as a bonus, we learned something important-- You can get a better uniform program for less money with direct purchase than you can with a uniform rental program. 

Here are some of the specifics:

Cost.  Renting uniforms is similar to owning a time share.  Attractive up front, and limited initial cash outlay, but over time the extra costs start to add up.  Yes, the rental company will sew on a button and do your laundry, but if they have to replace the shirt you’ll pay full retail, plus customization fees for names and logos. Often, the contract you sign authorizes the rental company to replace pieces of apparel at their discretion, so you could see these full retail expenses on a monthly bill that you aren’t expecting.  Also, if you have a high employee turnover rate it can be especially costly. Look for the environmental charges they pass along, allegedly to make sure they don’t pollute the local water and of course fuel surcharges as the price of gas fluctuates.  Most of these extra charges are pure profit to the rental company.

The client I discussed in the beginning of this article was able to save more than $8,000 per year by executing an employee uniform purchase plan and eliminating the rental service.

Service.  Yes, there are some jobs where having your uniforms cleaned by an outside service is beneficial.  If your employees get extremely dirty or come in contact with hazardous materials, you may not want that in their home laundry. In today’s work environment that is the exception to the rule. In fact, most prefer to do their own laundry. The idea of someone else doing the laundry sounds good at first but remember this is an industrial laundry. After a few weeks your employees begin to miss that spring fresh softness and smell, and if you pay attention you’ll find that many of your employees (often more than half of them) go back to doing their own laundry instead of turning them in to the rental service.

Quality.  If you ever tour a rental uniform warehouse, you’ll find stacks and stacks of the same uniforms that you are renting.  Normally, none of those stacks will be a good quality brand name garment.  No Ariat, no Wrangler, no Bulwark, no Carhartt…all of them will be that particular rental company’s in-house brand.  It’s no shock that other companies are renting the same exact uniforms.  In fact, if you have to have a piece replaced, you’re typically charged full retail but the replacement is often a used uniform straight out of inventory.  Granted, the new piece will have to be customized for you, but you’ll pay for that also.  If you want a uniform of a higher quality or different from what they stock…be prepared to pay more than the original quote.  Then there are the issues of lost and damaged pieces.  Think it wasn’t you that lost it?  It doesn’t really matter.  Check the fine print on your contract and you’ll see that you are the one paying to replace it anyway.

Image.  Your company’s image is important.  How you present yourself often influences the way your business is perceived, be it justified or not.  Are rental uniforms presenting the best version of you and your company?  What if you decide to re-brand or upgrade your logos? Companies often change or upgrade their image, and uniforms and re-branding are almost always part of that effort. With direct purchase you can easily migrate to a new program by simply changing what you buy. With a rental program you may be able the change the patch on your shirt, but changing or upgrading your program will not be so easy.  

Still want a uniform rental program? Ask around.  Try to find copies of bills from companies similar to yours.  Look at every line, read all the fine print, check the term of the contract, and make sure you know everything you possibly can before committing to a long-term agreement.

Still have questions?  Green Monkey Promotions offers full uniform program management services. When you are ready to explore the options for direct purchase, or you just want our advice on leaving your rental program, give us a call today. 903.452.0499

Steven Graff, C.A.S., aka The Green Monkey, has been in the promotional marketing profession since 1998.  Considered an expert in corporate apparel and trade show promotions, Steve brings his past military experience into the marketing world with an unmatched discipline, drive, and work ethic focused on accomplishing whatever missions his clients place before him.  Contact the Green Monkey here.


  • Category: Business Advice
  • Tags: promotional products, promos, branding, promotional items, pens, mugs, apparel, corporate apparel
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