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Buy once, buy better

Portrait photograph of Kate Hardcastle

We are thrilled to be working with Kate Hardcastle this summer. She is the UK’s leading expert on school uniform and helping families to save money and buy carefully. She has put together some brilliant advice for Start-Rite customers and is working with us in the news and on radio throughout the summer to help more families as they prepare for going back to school in September.

If you don’t already know Kate, here is an introduction...

Kate Hardcastle MBE - TV’s The Customer Whisperer

Kate Hardcastle is an award-winning Consumer Expert, with an MBE Queens Honour for Business.

Better for the purse and better for the planet – let's embrace buying smarter and greener!

I will soon be about to start my 28th school term as a parent – and as a parent of three - there are certainly some lessons I have learnt along the way. Applied with my 20 years in fashion and retail, Start-Rite Shoes has invited me to give you my top tips for saving money and helping school uniform to last longer.

Firstly, here’s a little about me... I have worked globally and spent 10 years in manufacturing and production companies, visiting sites all over the world that make clothes, cosmetics, furniture, and technology. I have also spent over a decade on television programmes helping families to get better value with their shopping and greater returns with their finances.

As a mum of three children, it matters that we buy within a budget and as a family, we also take active steps to buy in a smarter way for the planet too. Like most families, time is our most precious commodity, we have to be very organised to ensure that we get through the week of school, work, hobbies and family time.

We have learnt that as soon as anything becomes a chore it gets further down the priority list, so we have had to find ways to add a bit of fun to every job that must be done. One of the biggest improvements we can make to help our family’s finances is to reduce waste and to maximise the shelf life of everything we buy.

We do this every week with our food, by freezing and being careful with how much we buy, so it makes complete sense to follow this philosophy with the more expensive items we buy too.

Kate Hardcastle on a sofa with her three children

In previous years, school uniform has been a big spend item over the year, and with three children we have spent over a thousand pounds on uniforms, bags, coats, and shoes. There had to be a way to spend much less and yet ensure that we could have everything the children needed.

In Yorkshire we often say, “Buy cheap, buy twice” and whilst it doesn’t always apply, we have certainly noticed that to be the case with uniforms. We also know that taking care of the uniform is the key to ensuring your money serves you well and the garments last much longer – better for the purse and better for the planet! With proper garment care we have enjoyed white polo shirts that have lasted all school year, and shoes that still have life in them after nine months. It has been quite a revelation as we would normally need to top up in half-term school holidays.

We are also pleased that we will be able to donate more uniform into the school reuse initiative as we feel that with greater care, we have been able to ensure it can continue to look smart enough for another pupil.

The consistent feature of getting the most out of your children’s school uniform is to really care for it. The adage is true – the more that you put in, the more you will get out.