SAN GABRIEL VALLEY / COVER STORY : A Show of Uniformity : Many Retailers Wooing Cost-Conscious Parents With School Uniforms


"Imagine a place with no barriers," the Target ad declares.

"Where knowledge and imagination can get you anywhere. A place where you learn to expect success."

Caltech? PBS? Disneyland's Imagineering?

Try Target's school uniform department.

"This can be that place," the ad says. "Because in uniform, you are simply you."

School uniforms--once limited to private schools--are now big business. Target and other major retailers first started marketing uniforms last year at the request of Long Beach schools. Long Beach Unified School District's mandatory uniform policy, which took effect in September, 1994, marked the first time that a major U.S. city required uniforms for its public schools.

Before Long Beach, "we never knew anything about school uniforms," said Tyrone Hill, Target's school uniform coordinator for Southern California.

Now, retailers are trying to woo parents with competitive prices and selections. Each store's price range reflects different sizes or features. For instance, a plaid jumper with side pockets costs more than a solid jumper without pockets.

A typical outfit of sweater, jumper and blouse--all in 100% polyester--costs $62 plus tax from Botana & Gomez, a Los Angeles uniform company. The same outfit, in a rayon-polyester blend from Target, costs $48 plus tax.

A sample of selections: Jumper Botana & Gomez: $27 to $28 J.C. Penney: $17.99 to $22.99 Nordstrom: $19 to $25 Target: $12.99 to $13.99 Cardigan sweater, girls or boys Botana & Gomez: $21 to $23 J.C. Penney: $9.99 to $14.99 Nordstrom: $25 to $28 Target: $14.99 Boys' pants Botana & Gomez: $15 to $19 J.C. Penney: $15.99 to $33 Nordstrom: $20 to $30 Target: $13.99 to $17.99

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