As schools reopen in stages on Oct 3, school uniform manufacturers are not rejoicing.
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Few industries had been the same since the coronavirus pandemic, and the school uniform industry is no different.
Never-ending shutdowns and stay-at-home restrictions had impacted the school uniform industry and, although the situation is improving, the path to recovery is still a long road.
There are almost five million students in the country, and the industry’s biggest customers are parents of primary school students.
For now, the school reopening is only for Form Five students.
Even then, it is not compulsory to wear school uniforms.
Industry veteran K. W. Tan said school shutdowns had had an insurmountable impact on the overall school uniform industry.
Since the shutdown started in March 2020, month-to-month business among school uniform manufacturers had dropped to a historic low of five percent.
School uniform manufacturers cannot afford to stop operations as they rely on skilled foreign workers.
“If we close down the manufacturing lines, the foreign workers will go back to their own country, and it would be hard to bring them back.
“It would be a huge blow as the industry require workers with specific skills and must be trained for at least six months,” said Tan when contacted by The Rakyat Post.
Many of Tan’s competitors had closed for good, and all of these closures were due to COVID-19.
“Intitially, we produced PPE and face mask which can be made using our exisitng machineries.
“However, later on, a lot of PPE and face mask from China flooded the market and we can’t compete against their prices,” he added.
Industry players are pinning their hopes on school fully reopening by March next year.
“Even then, parents might be cautious about spending on new school uniforms due to the pandemic’s uncertainty.
“People are uncertain when – or will – life ever go back to normal,” said Tan.
On another note, he pointed out that students might have difficulty to accept wearing school uniform when the school reopens.
This is because students in government schools are allowed to wear casually during online classes all these while.
On the other hand, private school students must wear school unform even for online classes.
“In the long run, these might be a problem as students would start to compare what they wear.
“Those who could not afford to buy new different clothes might feel embarrased when their peers start to make comparison,” he said.