One large task of an airline is to make sure that all their employees are dressed properly. Typically, each position within an airline will have a different dress code. From the fancy outfits that flight attendants often wear to the more mundane look of those who work behind the scenes and away from passengers. They each have their purpose and it is quite the feat to make sure that every employee has a proper uniform.
TAM Airlines has a specialty uniform shop, located in Sao Paulo, where all 22,000 employees can go and pick up their uniforms. The process is quite the task.
The facility is unique in that not only do employees come in person, but the airline wants the uniform process to be a part of their culture. I was excited to see what it was all about — I had never seen a shop quite like it.
The shop is located in an inconspicuous part of town, not where one would expect to find an airline uniform shop. It is not close to the airport or to TAM HQ. The entrance of the facility has quite a bit of security. A gate, a guard, and some barbed wire were there to make sure that only people authorized were allowed in.
Even with all the security, the facility was quite welcoming.
The uniform shop really provides a positive and exciting atmosphere — almost like you are going on a shopping spree.
The lobby seating area has benches and walls covered in uniform fabric made of up different shapes. Moving behind reception, one will find a lounge where employees (both that work on-site and those looking to get a TAM uniform) are able to relax and get a drink.
The second floor contains the uniforms and changing rooms for women, while the third floor contains the uniforms for the men.
New hires come in and pick out a few complete uniforms. Those who already work for the airline typically come in about once per year to swap out those uniform pieces that have worn out.
At any given time, flight attendants and pilots typically have three to four full uniform sets to use. Due to there being so many employees needing uniforms, the shop sees about 120 people per day and is always in the process of restocking their shelves.
While other airlines might mail uniform pieces to employees, TAM feels that it is important to make the experience hands-on. The store is more personal, but that also provides some challenges.
It is great that employees are able to go in person, touch and feel their uniform (and also try it on). But that also means they need to take the time to make the trip. Sao Paulo is not known for their good traffic (just the opposite) and it would take a good half of a day or more to make the trip over to get a new uniform. However, TAM feels the ability to bond with employees and reiterate their culture is worth the hassle.
There is also training material located throughout the uniform shop that shows employees how to properly wear their uniforms. Also, if something doesn’t fit or is in need of repair, there is a small tailoring and repair shop located on the first floor of the facility.
I have to say that I was quite impressed with what TAM has done. I surely see the many benefits of offerring a physical location to pick out new clothes, especially for new employees, but I can also see where some might just prefer having items shipped to them.