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South East Workwear is a family run business started 30 plus years ago by Keith Burton from a van trading under Burton Trading Group Ltd. The company at the time sold tools and consumables and saw a gap to sell footwear and workwear to the local garages and industrial manufacturing businesses of Oxford. This soon surpassed the need for consumables and the business developed and he finally set up the first shop in 1994 in Abingdon. Now a 3rd Generation business we own one of the most iconic stores for workwear and PPE in the UK.
7th October 2020 Dickies announced that they would no longer be selling workwear in the UK, Europe, the Middle east or Africa and the Williamson-Dickie EMEA HQ at Midsomer Norton would cease operations at the end of March 2021. This closure not only leaves around 280 employees without jobs at their UK branch but also leaves a huge problem in the UK for the Workwear industry. On the day of the announcement I, like many mainstream distributors, was not only shocked but also worried what the loss of such a huge brand in the UK would have on businesses. The product range is embedded in so many companies as resellers and users that the gap would be very hard to fill. Dickies Brand was sold last year to the VF Corporation for $590M and last year turned over $875M for its worldwide clothing and approx. £96M for the workwear division in the UK alone.
South East Workwear alone purchases around £200,000 worth of Dickies products a year and we will have issues finding an alternative product that is not only priced on a comparison level but also carries the brand reputation and quality that Dickies has built up in the UK since 1922.
Personally, I found it almost impossible to think that a brand so well-known and so engrained at a granular level in the European market can be shut and cast aside overnight, but when I recently spoke to a what was soon to be an ex-employee of Dickies you quickly get a picture of how small a portion Dickies as a brand really is. They informed me that Dickies workwear UK as a brand made up for just a quarter of one percent of the revenue that the VF corporation generates, which in some way sheds light on just how small and insignificant a brand can be to such a huge empire. Collateral damage are employees who have spent their life helping build the brand and customers loyal to selling and using the products daily, people who rely on the product range to make a living and pay their overheads and we are no different to anyone else.
Having recently invested heavily in a new retail store in Oxfordshire and pushed hard to have a centre of excellence for workwear, we had become one of the new market leaders, showcasing how workwear should be seen and displayed and not in the usual dusty, badly stocked builders' merchants, where the staff have little to no interest in helping customers choose the right product, and to be fair, rightly so. My sales team would have no interest at all in spending time with a fussy customer who can't decide if he is a size 8 or a 9 in a boot and spends the next twenty minutes pacing the floor and wearing the boots out before he has even purchased them. These sorts of characters usually turn up at ten to five and quite frankly I would see them off or show no interest as I have just had another long day. If you are there to hit your sales target and your salary revolves around up-selling and your average order for a builder could be in the region of £4-500 then a £35 pair of boots with a margin of 30-40% is not high on your list of priorities.
Side entrance the new breed of workwear stores, popping up around the country and bringing with it a shop in shop experience. In our world this looks like a 6,000 square foot retail space and warehousing / offices, with highly trained professionals that will quickly guide you to the right product for the job, you won't be leaving in the wrong boots if you come and speak to one of the team. I think you get it; we are invested, this is our business and our shop hosts for now, for our misfortune a 1,500 square foot Dickies shop in shop, a standalone area and stacked with over eighty thousand pounds worth of stock ready to kit out a small army.
The news for us couldn't have been worse at the time, but as with all great businesses you make the most of it and re-invent, re-invest, and adapt.
We immediately took the initiative to launch our own brand of trousers. We have been selling workwear as a family for almost 30 years and run a successful YouTube channel “AskAdy” this has enabled us to listen to what the customers want. We then, using a company that has produced clothing for us for the past 10 years, started to put together a few samples. For the past 5 months we have been working hard to perfect our range of products, investing in our own stretch cotton fabric and eco packaging, as we are trying not to have any plastics used at all and we are now only a few weeks away from receiving our first shipment of 2,500 pairs of trousers with a further shipment of 5,000 units to follow shortly after.
We decided that we had to do it right and the buzzwords in the workwear industry are FLEX and STRETCH. Everyone who wears workwear wants to feel comfortable and a few years ago a few key manufacturers decided to introduce some flexible materials. In some cases they engineered a two way stretch system and some a more flexible system that gave a 4 ways all over stretch. The benefits from this are exceptionally important for tradesmen who find themselves working in tricky conditions such as an electrician in a loft space or a builder climbing a ladder. Whatever you do for work you need to be comfortable all day and have no restrictions of movement.
With this in mind we had to take the plunge and invest in the material that would give us this key selling feature. From my experience in reviewing and selling workwear products I have looked at thousands of pairs of trousers and I can certainly say that this has already started to shape the future of the industry. Demand has increased and already my store stocks
trousers in “Oxford Flexi Fabric '', engineered to move with you all day. We have 3 different styles of flexible material trousers and the requests for this product is on the increase.
Find out more about Flexi Work Trousers with AskAdy
Our Flexi fabric is called the “Oxford Flexi Fabric” and is produced from a preshrunk 97% Cotton / 3% Elastine material. It is finished in a peach finish and due to the natural fibres allows exceptional breathability. As with all natural products, cotton is fantastic for keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
In addition to offering a cost effective option for contract work we have also produced two entry level products that are manufactured from a traditional poly/cotton fabric. The mix is a 65/35% Polyester/Cotton mix and we call this the “Oxford Work Fabric”
Meet the Trousers
All our work Trousers are named after the Hospitals of Oxfordshire
The Radcliffe - Craftsman Work Trousers, made from 97% Cotton and 3% Elastane,“Oxford Flexi Fabric”, designed with the wearer in mind, allows unrestricted all-day movement and comfort with a multitude of pockets for functionality for any trades person. This is our flagship product offering features to aid the worker such as a 90% angle phone pocket to help the wearer quickly get to their phone when working on their knees, side access pockets, non marking secure zip pocket, drop down extendable length trousers, nail holster pockets with tool clips for screwdrivers, pencil pocket and drop in ruler pocket.
Flexi Waist band - sporting the Bull branding, wide belt loops at 20mm and 60mm wide rear belt loop to reduce BB (builders bum) reinforced ballistic nylon top loading knee pad and hem to reduce wear on rough surfaces.
The Nuffield - Service Trousers, made from 97% Cotton and 3% Elastane, “Oxford Flexi Fabric”, designed for unrestricted all-day movement and comfort with cargo pockets and internal knee pad pouches, can be worn in a warehouse by a craftsman or as part of a functional uniform. This has a modern cut and feels like a premium product to wear. This would look smart in any warehouse or office environment and gives exceptional breathability due to the natural fibres. Flexi Waist band - sporting the Bull branding.
The Horton - All Trades Cargo Trousers made from 97% Cotton and 3% Elastane, “Oxford Flexi Fabric”, designed with the wearer in mind, allows unrestricted all-day movement and comfort with cargo pockets and internal knee pad pouches, can be worn in a warehouse by a craftsman or as part of a functional uniform. Target audience is for the younger market. Offering a slimmer cut leg and styled for a more casual and stylish look. Flexi Waist band - sporting the Bull branding,
The Churchill - Cargo Work Trousers. We feel this will be one of the most popular affordable work trousers on the market, but bringing more comfort and new features to this classic cargo work pant. Produced from 65/35% Poly/Cotton fabric that is designed to be lightweight and yet hard wearing. The waistband has been fitted with a stretch fabric giving increased comfort when kneeling or bending down. The knee pad pouch is top loading giving the option for a knee pad onto a basic work trouser. This allows the end user increased protection should they be required to use a knee pad but in a hidden location and thus allowing the trouser to be used in a warehouse where the features may not be needed, increasing the smart appearance.
The Warneford - A multi-pocket tradesman trouser, produced from 65/35% Poly/Cotton fabric that is designed to be lightweight and yet hard wearing, with an abundance of pockets. This work pant will offer holster pockets, a cargo pocket and a tool pocket (one in each leg), a drop down hem for extendable length and a top loading knee pad pouch produced from reinforced ballistic nylon Fabric.
Vegan friendly Faux Leather rear badge loop
Press punched press stud trouser badge - with bull logo
Drop down extendable length
Available in colours Black, Navy, Grey and Khaki
We also have in production our Radcliffe work trouser as a shorts version ready to land in June ready for the summer. These come in 3 colour versions, black, grey and navy blue. Again these carry all the key features of the full length trousers in our cotton 4 way flex.
We are also introducing a range of safety footwear. We have 4 styles coming out Q3 for 2021 and we think they will be a big hit.
The Brand and Company is called “Oxford Workwear”. For us it captures the heritage of not only the roots of our family's business but also carries with it a legacy of education in science and technology from so many forward-thinking leaders born from our city. Our product base though isn't just about making excellent quality workwear that can be worn as the new leisurewear, that offers technical quality and increased durability.
We have partnered with Avena, a new secure waste recycling company that will allow us to take back used workwear and safety footwear to create recycled building materials
But the story doesn't stop there! We are also offering a bespoke trouser production service to our corporate client and the end user. If you have a requirement for a custom designed product then we offer a full design service. For a small fee we will design your own trousers and provide you with a sample, the MOQ is 250 units and our costs are exceptionally competitive.
If you are an end user and don’t want one of our off the peg items then we also offer a customisation service. Should you want to add or remove pockets, change a cargo pocket from the left to the right leg, choose a relaxed fit or even have a slim cut, then we can make this on demand and deliver it to your door in 4 weeks. It's a premium and new service to the market but we feel this offers our customers a previously unseen approach to making sure you get the product you want. We will even make the leg length to your requirements.
For the soft launch the initial distribution will be handled by Oxford Workwear for the first 2-3 weeks, then we will transfer the distribution to UK based companies which will be listed on the OW website.
We hope you love our products and enjoy the detail and design we have added to them to do justice to our beloved city Oxford.
There is a lot more to tell about the new systems we have developed and why, but for now you will just have to wait and watch this amazing new brand tell you the story on its own.