‘Security’ guard store as parents make last dash for school uniforms
Parents across Bristol have a stressful weekend ahead as the rush to make sure their children have the right uniform in time for the new school year reaches a climax. Most schools in the city use the one remaining uniform supplier, Monkhouse, which has stores across Bristol, but parents have been getting in touch with Bristol Live to report their experiences of frustration in getting their orders in time. One parent said the Monkhouse store in Stoke Gifford has been employing a security guard to filter parents outside, and there were ‘a lot of angry parents’ there on Thursday, while parents trying to get their last items of uniform at the Bedminster branch of Monkhouse have also got in touch to share their frustrations.
READ MORE:School uniform supplier Monkhouse apologises as parents complain of order delays Late last month, Monkhouse’s boss apologised to parents in Bristol for delayed orders, and blamed a combination of Covid and the Brexit-induced lorry driver shortage for major problems with the supply chain processing and transporting orders out to stores and parents. Peter Monkhouse said they could not guarantee anything ordered after the second week of August would get to parents in time, but parents who said they’d ordered in June or July reported that they also had not received the right uniform either.
The organiser of a petition calling on schools to offer a second alternative to dealing with Monkhouse said the problems had been so bad this year that headteachers would have to accept a grace period where pupils could attend school without the right uniform from September. As August turned into September and the first day back at school loomed larger, one parent told Bristol Live she went to the Stoke Gifford Monkhouse store on Thursday afternoon and there were reports of tense scenes. “There are a lot of angry parents here,” she said. “They have a security guard and the manager has been out, it is mad,” she added.
One of scores of schools that use Monkhouse in Bristol is St Katherine’s School in Pill, which introduced extra branded compulsory uniform items from the start of this coming term. Parents have had to go to Bedminster to get them. “The school have introduced logo skirts and trousers for September and Monkhouse are the only supplier of this, and the Bedminster store is the only one we can collect from,” one parent, who didn’t want to be named, told Bristol Live.
“I ordered two skirts on the website at the beginning of August, in plenty of time of the advised date for orders to arrive in time, and was advised it would take about two weeks until the order would be ready to collect in store, in East Street, Bedminster,” she added. She said after three weeks she had heard nothing, and tried in vain to contact the store by phone, called and emailed the head office and received an automated reply warning of delays, which she said was ‘inadequate’. “I responded that this was not acceptable and explained again that I had already tried to call both the store and head office, and did not appreciate being fobbed off,” she added.
“I still did not know if my order was in store ready to collect, so I persisted with ringing the store. It has taken three days to get through,” she said, adding that finally, after speaking to an assistant manager at the store, she has been assured the skirts are there to be collected. “I am also aware that many other parents are having similar and ongoing issues, particularly with trousers, due to a printing error with the logo,” she added.
“I really hope the school will reconsider the contract going forward – I appreciate this year in particular has been difficult for supply chains, but the level of customer service being shown by Monkhouse is inconsistent but mostly seems to be poor. I have signed the petition calling on Bristol schools to not use Monkhouse as the sole provider,” she added. Another St Katherine’s parent said families have been deluging the various Facebook groups for parents with their complaints, stresses and experiences. “The comments are still coming thick and fast on how the Bedminster store are handling the situation,” she said.
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School uniforms (Image: PA)
Monkhouse boss Peter Monkhouse said they were trying their best in difficult circumstances. In a statement to Bristol Live last month, managing director Mr Monkhouse apologised to all parents who have had problems.
“We fully appreciate and share parents’ concern over receiving school uniforms in time for the start of school, but like many other businesses in the UK, our stock supplies are being affected by international shipping delays caused by Covid,” he said. “Although we ordered stock earlier than ever to try and combat Covid complications, these shipping delays means we are still waiting to receive seven per cent of our Bristol stock and we sincerely apologise for the frustration this is causing. We have been in close contact with the local schools that are affected since April, to keep them fully aware of the pandemic-related shipping challenges that are affecting uniform supplies, and we are continuing to work hard to help families get ready for school,” he added.
“To help keep our customers and staff safe, we set up a 1-2-1 appointment system this year and have conducted more than 8,800 1-2-1 appointments for Bristol schools parents so far, with a high customer service rating overall. However one of our stores was affected by the pingdemic and staff testing positive on the same day, causing it to close. “While our team immediately started contacting those with appointments, unfortunately we were not able to reach a small number of people in time and we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this caused them,” he added.
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