The Uniform Exchange is a North Shore community service helping parents keep costs down and clothing from landfill, while helping disadvantaged children.
Stepping inside the small shopfront in Pymble for The Uniform Exchange is like entering the wardrobe into Narnia. Thousands of uniforms from 12 different schools fill the space, all waiting for their second lease on life.
The Uniform Exchange is a community service for parents wanting to buy and sell pre-loved uniforms and text books, set up by local parent Sue Turner ten years ago.
The ethos of the business is to think second hand first, and make sure nothing goes to waste. Sue is proud to say it has now resold, recycled or reused more than a quarter of a million uniforms and text books.
“I started the Exchange when I arrived in Australia from Johannesburg with my youngest of 3 boys. Moving into year 9 and I was surprised at how little access there was to second-hand uniforms,” Sue said.
“Coming from South Africa – where nothing is wasted and everything gets used and reused – I thought there must be a better way of doing things than just buying everything new.”
Sue first set up shop in her St Ives garage, before moving to the current shopfront in Pymble for more space and a better location for the community to access.
“There is definitely a need for this service on many levels. It supports sustainable purchasing and helps the environment. It benefits parents in tough economic times and by having a good supply of uniforms, it saves on water and electricity consumption, and even better it saves on stress of having to make sure you have enough clean outfits to make it through the week,” Sue said.
Interested sellers bring their pre-loved uniforms to the shop, where they are marked for sale at approximately half the price of a new item. When the item is sold the seller will receive 50% of the sold price (less GST). Twice a year sellers can collect their payments for any items sold, or they can use it as credit for their next purchase.
“Most parents are with us throughout the years their children are in school. People enjoy supporting small, local businesses with a personal service rather than buying online,” Sue said.
Buyers can visit the shop where items can be tried on for size, and there is a seven-day return/exchange option for peace of mind.
“If parents buy and sell with us they will save 75% of the cost of their uniforms. A win for the buyers, a win for the sellers and an even bigger win for the environment.”
For items that are not sold, Sue ensures nothing goes to waste. The Uniform Exchange has sent more than 75,000 uniforms and text books to 15 different countries all over the world.
“I love the interaction with my customers and their children… we watch most of them grow up and we get to know them all very well,” Sue said.
“I’m also blessed with the many amazing people I have worked with to relocate these valuable, well-made pieces of clothing, to areas where they are really needed.”
Sue has received numerous awards for her work with The Uniform Exchange, including the Australia Day Community Award, the Green Globe Award from NSW Government, the Better Business Award and People’s Choice Award, and Sue has been recognised as a finalist in the Women in Business awards.
She also operates a free community website www.theuniformexchange.com.au which caters for other schools in Australia where parents can buy and sell their school items. The site has more than 10,000 schools listed, with more being added every week.
Sue’s advice for parents is simple.
“Always try to buy school uniforms with good hems as children grow so fast. Encourage children to change out of their uniforms when arriving home from school. When uniforms are no longer needed, use our Pymble service or our free website to pass them on to someone else.”
The Uniform Exchange
993 Pacific Highway
Pymble (opposite Pymble Hotel)
Ph: (02) 9988 3374