When Michael Simpkin took on his role as Head of Retail Marketing for Boyle Sports, one of the first items on his agenda was to tackle the procurement process for new uniform, fuelled by his feeling that it no longer represented the ethos of the company. Tailored Image stood out from first engagement as the preferred choice of supplier and the two companies have since then developed a strong working relationship.
We caught up with Michael to find out how he found the process and what his advice would be for others undertaking a new uniform project.
Tell us about Boyle Sports
A proud Northern Irish company, Boyle Sports was founded in 1989 in Markethill by John Boyle and has now grown to over 340 shops across the UK and Ireland. In 2020 the company acquired 33 William Hill stores across the UK, having already taken over 18 Bruce Betting shops the previous year, making it Ireland’s largest independent betting shop. The company enjoys partnerships with some high-profile football teams including Birmingham, Wolves and Coventry and has experienced significant digital growth throughout challenging times.
What fuelled your decision to change your uniform?
Our shop colleagues are the front line of our business – they are the connection between Boyle Sports and our customers so they are without doubt our most important asset. It is of paramount importance how they present themselves and when I took on this role I felt their uniforms did not reflect the vibrant nature of the business. It only took one mention to our Chairman that I felt the uniform was outdated to get the nod to change it, and I’m delighted he was so embracing of this important departure for the business.
Although our business is retail in nature, our staff don’t engage in a quick and simple transaction like in a supermarket environment, rather they are building a relationship with a customer who may want to stay for an afternoon. Whilst we want our employees to remain professional, it is also important that they can break down barriers with customers by presenting themselves as approachable and friendly.
The world of bookmaking is a highly competitive one and our choice of uniform should allow us to be the preferred choice of bookmaker; standing out from the crowd. We’re a sports leisure business at the end of the day so our staff uniform should reflect this and make our staff accessible, whilst maintaining their professionalism.
Why did you decide to work with Tailored Image?
We hadn’t engaged the services of a uniform company for a long period, so when it came to bringing about a change, we felt it important to undertake a proper tender process.
During each encounter with Tailored Image throughout this process, we found the entire team to be professional and proactive – from sales through design to director level. We knew we could work together and the initial designs were on point, so all of this combined made this an easy decision.
What were your learnings along the way?
The biggest surprise for me was perhaps the length of time it takes to get it right. We went through several stages of choosing and amending cuts and colours and approving samples before we arrived at the end result.
The wearer trials were a critical part of the process, and this is where Tailored Image really excelled. The trials themselves proved critical and allowed us to tweak designs to ensure the fit was just right. We trialled fabric for its light and breathable qualities, added and moved buttons to ensure modesty was preserved, added stretchable panels into the jacket to ensure stretchability to cater for size 8 to 18. We made several adjustments along the way to suit all staff – no mean feat but we got there in the end!
Why did you choose a contemporary look rather than a suiting approach?
Our previous uniform, which had been in operation for quite some time, comprised a combination of white shirts and ties for gents and a scarf and cardigan look for the ladies. Whilst is clearly served a purpose, I thought it more befitting of a bank than a bookmakers and wanted something modern yet professional.
Lots of our competitors had adopted a polo shirt look, but I felt this was a bridge too far and created an ultra-casual look. I was convinced there was an effective ‘half-way house’ position to be achieved. We have therefore adopted a smart casual look instead in with our very striking brand colours we have created something very distinctive for our organisation.
Staff can wear the uniforms in several different ways which allows that important level of personalisation of style. The feedback from them has been overwhelmingly positive, which definitely helps in any transition process! We know our staff enjoy wearing their uniform, that they feel proud of it and that they’re happy to wear it each day.
Tell us about the ordering process
We ordered our entire uniform portfolio through Tailored Image’s bespoke online portal. This was a new experience for us and we found it to be a highly effective means of placing orders for all staff. Taking this administrative task away from us allowed our staff to free up time to manage other areas of the business more efficiently.
The portal was set up for every individual member of staff and all sizing added so that each employee could place their own orders effectively. Packs were sent out to each shop for distribution and the process went very smoothly from start to finish.
What impact did the micro manufacturing facility at Tailored Image HQ have on your order process?
The manufacturing facility at Moygashel helped facilitate high quality samples which proved critical in the smooth transition of our uniform. We had many iterations of uniform items along the way and the fact of having this local facility meant samples were very quickly turned around. Adjustments to collars, cuffs and buttons were all done quickly and efficiently. We received highly professional samples which to which we could give quick sign off, so it all helped smooth the process and accelerate timelines.
The Moygashel facility also helped us turn around uniforms catering for maternity wear. This request was handled very sensitively to the needs of the personnel involved and was a ringing endorsement to the level of service Tailored Image provides to its clients.
How would you describe the overall experience?
One word sums it all up: partnership. This hasn’t been a basic supplier/client relationship but rather a partnership with Tailored Image. We’ve collaborated effectively at every stage of the process and the overall experience has been an overwhelmingly positive one.
Would you recommend Tailored Image to anyone undertaking a uniform project?
Without hesitation, yes. We’re already looking at ways we can enhance the uniform into the future so we know this relationship will be here for a long time to come.