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Uniform costs not uniform

The rack of free school uniform at St Vincent de Paul’s charity shop in Carterton. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

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Why are school uniforms so expensive?

It’s a common question this time of year as parents frantically scramble to get everything their children need in time for back to school.

But it appears some uniforms cost more than others, with some parents forking out $32 more for a polo shirt and shorts than those at other primary schools.

NZ Uniforms in Masterton supplies to 13 of the region’s schools, with each school’s uniform prices varying.

Chief executive David Bunnell, said there were a lot of elements which were considered when pricing uniform, which was why Lakeview School’s polo shirt costs $31 and Douglas Park School’s polo cost $45.

“It all depends on whether it’s a stock fabric or a bespoke product,” he said.

“Douglas Park School’s polo is a brick colour – there is no stock fabric of that colour anywhere in the world.”

This meant the polo shirt is a “completely bespoke colour”, which Bunnell said complicated the production process.

“We have to produce that fabric and put it through a vigorous dying process to make sure it’s long lasting for the career of the student at school.”

Bunnell said they try to keep costs low while still running a business in a competitive market and making uniforms to a high quality which are “built to last”.

That was the difference between its products and other stores which sell generic polo shirts for $5, he said.

The store offers a range of options to those families who struggle to afford school uniforms, including part pay and six-month interest-free finance options through Gilrose Finance, with NZ Uniforms footing the bill for the six months’ of interest.

“We try to make uniform easily accessible and part of that is cost,” Bunnell said.

They also offer a Uniform Club, which allows people to put as little as $5 a week on a Uniform Club card, which can then be redeemed later at any NZ Uniforms retail outlet.

Another option for parents is the ‘Free Uniform’ rack at the St Vincent de Paul’s charity shop in Carterton.

Manager Giles Kendall-Carpenter said it was something they offered all year round.

“We’re a charity, it’s what we do,” he said.

He said the store sometimes received donations of brand-new uniform items, but other items were a bit older and families used them as back-ups.

“A lot of families can’t afford the uniforms,” he said

“Any uniform items we get through here are free.”


  1. Douglas Park have had that ‘Brick’ colour Polo for years. 3 years ago I purchased these from the school for $25 and they were made in New Zealand. Same colour, same fabric, now they are $45! Where are they making them now, Switzerland?

  2. Good on you St Vincent de Paul’s, you are a saviour to many families in need when weekly living costs continue to rise. Big thumbs up to you!

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