Unitec Distribution Systems has been distributing uniforms since 1927. We’ve helped nearly a quarter million employees purchase uniforms and have issued more than 1.5 million uniforms to our customers. Each year we review the current state of the uniform industry to educate our team and prepare our operations for the year ahead. This helps our Account Managers serve as trusted advisors to our clients and advise them on uniform decisions in the coming months, particularly for any customers preparing to refresh their uniform options for the upcoming year.
This article provides a summary of our research, including the size of the uniform industry, the challenges facing the workwear industry, how workwear uniforms are evolving, the current key players, and our predictions for the future. If you’d like to discuss how this information relates to your business and employees in uniform, please reach out to our team.
How Large is the Uniform Industry?
The uniform industry includes everything from school and military uniforms to workwear. This article focuses on workwear, which includes any attire provided and paid for by an employer and designated for use during work hours by employees. Workwear not only ensures employee safety, but also serves as a tool for advertising and company branding.
According to the Global Workwear Market study published by Global Industry Analysts Inc., (GIA), the workwear market in the United States was approximately $12.6 billion in 2022 and the global workwear market is expected to reach $42.7 billion by 2026. The United States accounts for approximately 36% of the global workwear uniform market across all segments, with footwear accounting for nearly 23% of the global workwear market.
Understanding Different Workwear Uniform Markets
The global workwear, or corporate uniform market, can be classified by segment, product type, end-user, and region. The GIA market study classified the three distinct segments as general workwear, corporate workwear, and uniforms.
- General workwear includes both white-collar and blue-collar employees.
- Corporate workwear features image wear, career wear, and corporate clothing.
- Uniforms traditionally designed for public sector employees like military, firefighters, and police personnel.
Common product type sectors include apparel, accessories, and footwear. Within each of these sectors there are additional subsegments, for example footwear, which includes: safety boots, slip-resistant shoes, dress shoes, and steel-toed boots, etc. Other definitions look at the industry for the work being performed, such as construction, food service, or manufacturing. Obviously, it can be quite complex to understand the different ways the uniform industry can be defined and analyzed. Therefore, partnering with an experienced uniform distributor with expertise across a broad range of manufacturers and sectors is critical for corporations with employees in uniform.
Unitec Distribution Systems supports a wide range of workwear uniform markets including: Industrial, Utilities, Maintenance/Facilities, Transportation, Manufacturing, Education/Schools, Government, Security, Healthcare, Hospitality, Corporate, Public Safety and Law Enforcement, Restaurant and Food Service, Aviation, Automotive, Construction, Service, and Retail. This includes providing a variety of apparel options for each industry from shirts, pants, and jackets to accessories, like hats and belts.
The workwear uniform industry plays a crucial role in various businesses and industries worldwide. It serves to create a sense of professionalism, unity, and brand identity among employees. While traditional uniforms are still used in some sectors, many companies have adopted corporate apparel, offering employees a range of clothing options that balance individual expression with adherence to company guidelines. Moreover, workwear now includes specialized safety gear for industries like construction, water treatment and manufacturing, ensuring both professional appearance and employee well-being. The industry continues to evolve with fashion trends and technological advancements, emphasizing comfort, functionality, and safety in today’s diverse and modern workplaces.
What are the Major Challenges Facing the Uniform & Workwear Industry?
The workwear uniform industry confronts a variety of challenges in the face of technological advancements, changing work dynamics, regulatory complexities, sustainability expectations, and global market dynamics. Overcoming these challenges requires a proactive approach, fostering innovation, maintaining compliance, and prioritizing sustainability and social responsibility. As the industry continues to evolve and garments improve, companies that successfully address these challenges will be better positioned to meet customer needs and remain competitive in the ever-changing landscape of workwear and uniforms.
Learn more about the Challenges Facing the Workwear Uniform Industry in 2023.
How is the Workwear Uniform Industry Evolving?
The uniform industry has been witnessing significant transformations in recent years, driven by changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and a growing focus on sustainability and ethical practices. As we step towards 2024, it becomes more evident that the uniform industry is no longer just about providing standardized workwear; it is evolving to meet the diverse demands of modern workplaces and conscious consumers.
Five key trends that are shaping the future of the uniform industry:
- Eco-Friendly Fabric and Manufacturing Processes
- Ethical Considerations for Supply Chain Management and Labor Practices
- Enhanced Safety Needs
- Increased Customization and Personalization
- Changing Consumer Behavior
We dive deeper into each of these in this article: The Evolution of the Uniform Industry: Towards a Sustainable, Ethical, and Personalized Future.
Who are the Key Players in the Workwear Uniform Industry?
Key players in the workwear uniform industry include manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, distributors, corporate brands, online marketplaces, safety gear specialists, and customization services. These players collaborate to provide a diverse range of workwear and uniform options for various industries and businesses. There are countless companies in each sector, with some crossover in multiple areas. For instance, Unitec Distribution Systems is a managed uniform provider, meaning that we distribute uniforms direct to our customer’s employees. This includes the use of our proprietary online uniform portal and in-house embellishment and customization services.
The Most Popular Uniform Brands
While the most popular uniform brand can vary drastically between industries, some of the most popular include 5.11, Berne, Bulwark, Carhartt, CornerStone, Dickies, Edwards, Gildan, Hanes, Liberty, National Safety Apparel, Nike, OGIO, Portwest, Port Authority, Propper, Radians, Red Kap, Reflective Apparel, Sport-Tek, Under Armour, Workwear Outfitters, Wrangler, and WorkriteFR.
Learn more about The Most Popular and Requested Uniform Brands.
The best uniform brand for your organization depends on your specific needs and budget. Our account managers are trained at guiding customers through the selection process, including identifying individual products and customization options tailored to your brand, budget, and industry.
The Future of Workwear: Embracing Innovation and Sustainability
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the workwear market is expected to witness healthy growth, especially due to the significant size of the millennial population and the increasing popularity of organic and sustainable workwear. Additionally, innovations in fabric technology, such as smart apparel and wearable technologies, are expected to fuel market expansion in the coming years.
The future of the uniform industry will be shaped by technology, sustainability, and an increased focus on individual preferences and well-being. As businesses strive to stay ahead in a rapidly changing world, uniforms will evolve to meet the demands of a diverse and dynamic workforce, offering comfort, safety, and style while aligning with the values of a sustainable and socially responsible future.
Trends being predicted for the uniform industry include:
- Smart and connected uniforms
- Increased customization and personalization
- More sustainable and eco-friendly materials
- Additional versatility and multi-functionality
- Accessible augmented reality (AR) and virtual try-ons
- Enhanced emphasis on employee well-being
Learn more in our post: The Future of Workwear: Embracing Innovation and Sustainability.
Download our whitepaper to learn more about How AI Could Change the Uniform Industry.
By embracing innovation and sustainability, the workwear uniform industry is poised for a promising future, offering comfortable, safe, and stylish solutions that cater to the diverse needs of modern workplaces. With an expansive range of uniform brands to choose from, businesses can rely on the expertise of Unitec Distribution Systems to select the best options tailored to their specific requirements and budget.
Embracing these trends, the uniform industry is set to create a positive impact on employee well-being and productivity while promoting a sustainable and socially responsible future. For businesses seeking to stay ahead and maintain a professional image, without the headaches of managing their uniform program, Unitec Distribution Systems is ready to be your partner.
We Take You Out of the Uniform Business!
Unitec Distribution Systems takes the headaches out of managing your uniform purchases and distribution. The magic of Unitec Distribution Systems is the combination of our proprietary uniform management software, The Proximity System™, and our dedicated account managers. Together, we’re able to streamline uniform distribution while improving morale and reducing waste.
Unitec is a certified women-owned uniform supplier.