Business collapse sees $38,000 of uniform donated

Tuakau business owner Colleen Smith, who was the supplier of uniforms to Tuakau College through her company Customized, says she is donating the remainder of her stock to the local community after a College decision to change suppliers left her business in tatters.

Tuakau College’s Board of Trustees is strongly rejecting any suggestions it handled the uniform changeover poorly, BOT Chair Jill Dean saying the board understands Colleen Smith is upset, but says Customized is a business, and as such she is expected to operate in a business-like manner.

“The decisions made by the BOT at Tuakau College have taken place over a significant period of time, and we have included Customized in discussions and decisions when there was no obligation on our part to do so,” Jill said in a statement.

Colleen Smith says she was not given the opportunity to quote on supply of the new uniform, and requirements under her agreement with the College meant she was forced to carry a large amount of stock. As such, when the College decided to move to a new supplier, Colleen says Customized was left holding almost $60,000 in stock, some of which she has managed to sell. However, she says parents are now opting for the new uniforms, and this means she has had to cover the costs of her stock.

Colleen says she has had to practically shut down her business, moving part of it to home, and taking out a second mortgage to cover debts to suppliers.

Now, she says, she just wants to give the remaining stock to needy members of the community so ‘some good will come out of the situation.’

Jill Dean says new rules brought in by the Commerce Commission in 2013 meant schools had to review situations where uniform was supplied by an exclusive supplier.

‘Customized was aware of the new rules and the risks that represented to the business model,’ Jill said.

“We informed Customized more than 12 months ago that we needed to change the uniform. This was based on feedback from students, parents, caregivers and staff. The old uniform is considered to be outdated and unstylish. It has also been very expensive and during the term of our arrangement with Colleen’s business has also been of variable quality.”

After research by staff, the College opted to go with NZ Uniforms as the supplier going forward, and says Customized was offered the opportunity to work alongside NZ Uniform and be a local supplier of the uniform.

But Colleen Smith says she was told she had to purchase the new uniform at retail, making it uneconomic to resell.

Jill Dean says Customized has never been in a position to quote to supply new uniforms as the company is a retail and alterations outlet not a manufacturer of uniforms.

“Customized have made their decisions and the BOT cannot be criticised for finding a retail option which allows families to buy quality uniforms at a cheaper price,” Jill Dean said.

Jill Dean adds the new cost of a uniform for a Year 7 girl is now $177, compared to $211 previously.

Asked whether the College gets any proceeds from the uniform sales, Jill Dean says: “Customized rejected the offer to sell the new uniform leaving the school no option but to set up a retail outlet within the school. This is not expected

to turn a profit as the goods are sold at “cost + administration”, this ensures the wider community will benefit.”

The College is introducing the new uniform in stages. Anyone wanting more information about the uniform donations can contact Colleen on 027 533 5651.

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