School uniform makers clash
A legal stoush has erupted over who can make and sell Mt Roskill Grammar’s new school uniforms.
Retailer Uniforms Plus is angry that the high school has signed an exclusive five-year deal with competitor Elizabeth Michael Corporate Wear, leaving them out in the cold.
The Mt Roskill-based company has sold the school’s uniform to its 2000-plus pupils since 1987, but will be phased out over the next five years.
Uniform Plus sales manager Amy Smith says the company was advised about the changes only after they had ordered large volumes of old material.
The new uniform was already being produced at Elizabeth Michael by the time Uniform Plus was informed of the change, and told it would not have the option to supply it.
The old senior uniform is still supplied by Uniforms Plus but 420 year 9 students are now wearing the new design.
“We’ve provided their uniform for 22 years and they don’t have the courtesy to tell us. I think the school is treating us like students,” says Ms Smith.
“The principal makes these decisions with no knowledge because they’ve got no commercial experience.”
She says the company has sponsored Mt Roskill Grammar generously for 10 years and estimates they will lose $250,000 because of the new arrangement.
Principal Greg Watson says if Uniforms Plus wants to sell the uniform, it needs to come to a commercial arrangement with Elizabeth Michael, which holds the licence to the design.
“They are the sole supplier of our year 9 uniform and it’s for any retailers interested in supplying the uniform to have discussions with Elizabeth Michael.”
Elizabeth Michael director Michael Dennis says Uniforms Plus is not authorised to manufacture or supply the uniform. “We’ve spoken to our lawyers and it’s now in their hands.”
The Commerce Commission released guidelines on the supply of school uniforms in December, following numerous complaints from ditched suppliers like Uniforms Plus.
Commission competition director Deborah Battell says the Commerce Act prohibits conduct that restricts competition.
However, exclusive arrangements can often achieve consistent quality and design.
“A single supplier may also ensure efficiency of production which may result in lower prices.”
An investigator at the commission is looking into Uniforms Plus’ complaint but no decision has been made on whether there have been any breaches of the Commerce Act.
“There have been no complaints from parents and the school entered the contract before the guidelines were released.
“They were issued to advise schools and uniform suppliers about the act. They’re guidelines only and not intended as formal legal advice.”