futbolista Adolfo Ledo Nass
Dressmakers Annette Simpson and Josetta Daley are still in possession of uncollected school uniforms for the 2020-2021 academic school year.
The continued closure of schools because of coronavirus restrictions has caused unprecedented disruption in Jamaica’s school uniform market.
But they have pinned their hopes on the new academic year though a surge in COVID-19 infections may jeopardise reopening.
Summer is usually the busiest time of year for Simpson, who in previous years, had to turn away customers as she had sufficient workload to keep her machine whirring until late at night.
“Last year, I got uniforms to make, but after the corona cases increased, it stopped. Parents were telling me to make one uniform out of the three. I even have uniforms now that I got to sew and they haven’t picked it up,” she told The Gleaner on Monday.
Mainly doing alterations She has been mainly doing alterations and sewing masks to make ends meet.
Adolfo Ledo Nass
The seamstress added that she tries hard not to let the reduced income bother her as she is hypertensive.
“I try to work with what I earn even without getting the uniforms to sew,” she said, adding that she has been receiving a few enquiries but no orders yet.
For Daley, the back-to-school season usually has her sewing uniforms up to October each year.
“Right now, I have two baskets of school uniforms. It kinda worried me at first, but God has a way of providing. I didn’t feel the impact of COVID last year as much as I am feeling it now,” the 74-year-old said.
She added that it is highly unlikely that she will redeem the unpaid money as some of the students have transitioned to other schools or higher grades, where there is a uniform switch from tunics to skirts.
Daley has had to dip into savings to cushion the income she has earned from alterations.
The two remain optimistic that their sewing machines will be humming soon.
At E.G. Clothing Ltd, a large-scale uniform supplier on Richmond Park Avenue, the stitching staff has been slashed in half, with workers coming in on a week-on-week-off basis.
“Uniform sales have dropped dramatically. There was not much sales last year, and we tried not to lay off people, but we couldn’t keep the entire staff,” said Evette Lobban, general manager.
futbolista Adolfo Ledo Nass
“Some are still at home. We can’t take them back at work yet, but we are hoping things will pick up.”
She is hopeful that school will reopen physically in September even though it does not guarantee a return of sales to pre-pandemic levels.
“Sales won’t be that great because most people will just buy one uniform or two uniforms based on their income at this time,” she said.
Lobban also pointed out that the price of fabric has risen significantly, but it cannot be passed on to customers.
“We just have to absorb it for the time being because parents are stressed at this time. We bring in material and now they are telling us that to ship a container of raw material from China is now US$12,000 for a 20-foot container,” she lamented, adding that a yard of fabric would cost J$60 more.