A Uniform Decision: An interview with United Uniforms / Sew Shore
United Uniforms and Sew Shore is one of the nation’s most unique uniform shops. Bridging the gap between screen printing, embroidery, creative design, alterations, and uniform store apparel, Jason Marshall (owner) and his team have spent the last 30+ years building a staple business in Naples, FL.
Jason is open about the challenges, problems, and fears within these industries - but 2020 looks to be another year of growth and exciting opportunities for this team. After being recognized as Naples top uniform shop for the 5th consecutive year in a row, United Uniforms / Sew Shore continue their growth trajectories with an array of viable solutions.
“We are more than just a scrub shop, or uniform store. It hasn’t been easy but, it’s certainly working out for us”
From engaging customers and educating them on trends and processes, to state of the art embroidery and printing equipment, custom tailoring, pricing battles, and hundreds of vendor relationships - there’s alot for United Uniforms / Sew Shore to cover.
Why do customers want to shop at United Uniforms and use Sew Shore services?
Jason and his team have created one of the most desired uniform outfits in the country. Their clientele ranges from small businesses, industry titans, celebrity musicians, high profile events, hotel, restaurants, government agencies, and private contract projects… pretty much anyone and everyone. They are truly a one stop shop for apparel, screen printing, and embroidery with everything under one roof. The team at United Uniforms / Sew Shore make projects come to life.
How do you manage to grow and find new customers annually?
United Uniforms / Sew Shore built a name for itself in the industry not only for their quality of work but, by managing large group accounts and minimizing the workload for the purchasing agents or ordering operations. In addition to their involvement in high profile and charitable events, they became the “can do” shop to pull off start to finish projects. The process is natural… their team is honest and looks at the whole picture with both long term and immediate needs. This reveals opportunities to brand, merchandise, and promote. “It’s not exactly a hard sell when you can help the client visualize the end result…” explains owner, Jason Marshall.
Having this foresight and long term plans in place, it’s easy to see why United Uniforms retains the customers they have and receive so many referrals. Jason mentions that “We focus on our customers and most of them have developed into friendly relationships that align our company with the right customers”.
How do you think uniform shops can differentiate themselves?
United Uniforms / Sew Shore strength lies in differentiation within their industry and their client’s projects. They are transparent and honest about their approach to the entire process from individuals to groups. Whether it’s a set of scrubs, an entire practice’s embroidered uniform, or screen printed tees for a school, they listen to their client’s “wants”. From there, United Uniforms / Sew Shore begins their pitch to the customer for what they really want but, didn’t know they wanted.
“We often hear ‘We already received a price from another company.’ but, we begin to pull the curtain back and show the client the whole operation and how and why we can do better than what they’ve seen or had done elsewhere.” Marshall says. United Uniforms / Sew Shore is a dizzying operation of every possible detail involved in pulling together a uniform appearance. The Beck Blvd. store is packed with medical apparel, law enforcement fit lines, 20+ embroidery heads, dye sublimation printers, vinyl cutters, heat presses and an on-site seamstress for total perfection. “I feel we are successful because we haven’t put all of our eggs in one basket. You can’t get complacent. This is what ultimately makes us vastly different than other uniform stores or screen printers and embroiderers.” When United Uniforms / Sew Shore felt the call to expand operations to the north side of town, they opened shop with their most successful retail product of medical scrubs. Jason says “… we were able to show more product to a different demographic. Our new store become a catch-all for all of the other services we offer at our Beck Blvd. location."
What do you wish you’d known before you took on this endeavor?
Referencing other peers and industry leaders Jason laments “We aren’t racing to be at the bottom. We are so much more and our work is evidence of this. Our history is about trust and relationships with our clients, not pennies off of a price.” Jason continues that over the years he’s learned to be more careful about who they partner with. “We want to be a solution but, sometimes it’s just not practical. We are still a business, we still have overhead, and it needs to be beneficial for all parties involved. There are too many seamless accounts that work with us efficiently… it’s just not worth the energy to get beat up by a short term client that shops around your services and doesn’t value what goes into their own projects”. Many startup businesses lose their asses trying to grab every dollar, it's a tough habit to break. Jason also warns about one of the biggest sins he inherited in his buyout... "You can't offer terms you don't have. If you have NET30 you cannot extend NET30 to your client, that's your safety net that you are compromising."
What is your favorite equipment or item at United Uniforms / Sew Shore?
“That’s a tough question in regards to equipment..” Jason states. "It’s either going to be my dye sublimation printer or our newest embroidery machine.” Jason continues to explain that the Dye Sublimation printer was a solution he had in his early years in the industry. “Nobody would listen to me, so I bought one myself and it immediately took me beyond any average print shop…” he says, drawing parallels to his own entrepreneurial spirit. The original embroidery machines that started Sew Shore were in excess of 32 embroidery heads. Over the past few years United Uniforms / Sew Shore has brought in 4 state of the art Barudan embroidery machines. Marshall explains “The efficiency of the new machines is phenomenal. We were outperforming the original 32 heads with just 12 new heads. Our newest machine has a touch screen. It might be may favorite because it’s old-school construction with modern intuitive controls”.
Oddly enough, United Uniforms top selling product is their compression sock. A good sock can give you a few more hours on your feet. It encourages blood flow, reduces swelling, and they are varicose vein preventative. “Many young women wear them religiously now and it’s not unusual for them to buy many pair at once” Jason said. Nursemates brand makes up the majority of their compression sock options. United Uniforms / Sew Shore is the exclusive distributor in their area for Nursemates and several other prominent industry brands.
What is the biggest challenge for your business?
“The Amazon mentality” Jason says without hesitation. Like many other businesses competing with Amazon, it’s not just about price. Small businesses struggle with instant gratification fulfillment that Amazon offers. “What people fail to realize is that goods and products are one thing, providing services is an entirely different animal. Amazon is not offering overnight services such as embroidery and screen printing, they are just offering a product...” he continues. Marshall mentions a healthy employee / workplace psyche, quality, and sustainability would be impossible with Next Day service for all orders. “I don’t think Amazon would exist if they were held to the service turnaround standards that they have for shipping product”.
Jason makes it clear stating “I don’t fear Amazon but, I’d be stupid to ignore the waves they make”. Marshall is hellbent on finding the opportunity for any and every occasion. As consumers blur the line of goods versus service expectations, United Uniforms / Sew Shore do their best to educate their clientele about the advantages of doing local business. One such element is MAP pricing, or Minimum Advertised Pricing. The largest brands in the world enforce MAP policy to protect their company’s brand image and perceived value of goods. Amazon is no exception to MAP pricing policies, which no longer makes them the “cheapest” vendor for apparel. Brick and mortar locations can have in-house discounts and sales that break the protective price barrier that online retailers cannot.
Though direct to consumer sales are more profitable for name brands, the power of Brick & Mortar locations is not lost on some of the biggest brands in the uniform industry. Many have started to make exclusive lines not available online. “Major brands may have sales reps for a territory but, there is no better rep than a Mom & Pop store. Big trees have big roots but, it’s us the retailers, who dig our roots deeper and connect with our community and feed that big tree. We deal with the whole picture such as fit, function, uniform standards for each facility, returns, and so much more.” Jason says, explaining his commitment to brands that have stayed loyal to small businesses.
Ending on a positive note: What were some of the biggest wins or moments from 2019?
In 2019 United Uniforms / Sew Shore had some of the largest orders in their history of 30+ years in business. “… and they were executed with precision like any other job in our queue” quipped Marshall.
Embroidering Tour Apparel for several top touring musical artists
United Uniforms / Sew Shore created a custom uniform with Koi Designer Scrubs for a very important large group account. "The satisfaction of fulfilling a client’s very specific need with the complete cooperation with the fine team over at Koi Designer scrubs will be tough to top.”
The addition of numerous law enforcement and fire department agencies. “We wanted to take care of our backyard, and it’s blossomed into this regional collection of first responders. I think a lot of it is attributed to the relationship the agencies have with our store manager, Rose Martino.” Jason laments. “She gets it, she understands them, she gets the job done."
The company celebrated their first retirement party for their beloved seamstress, Ninfa Leon, after decades of working for Sew Shore. “It’s tough to feel you are losing a veteran member but, if there was anyone more deserving of a party… it’s Ninfa.” Though staff turnover is very low for United Uniforms / Sew Shore, Ninfa was the first employee to see her career through retirement.
United Uniforms / Sew Shore is located in Naples, FL.
Jason Marshall, Owner / Operator, is a Naples native
Sew Shore has been in business since 1986 now under operation as United Uniforms USA, Inc. with 10-14 full time and part time employees.
On the web: www.sewshore.com
(The company has numerous sites accessible through their main page)
Phone: (239) 774-4655
Tollgate Center (East Naples)
3845 Beck Blvd.
Naples, FL 34114
Green Tree Center (North Naples)
2340 Immokalee Rd.
Naples, FL 34110