AROUND 900 United Co-operatives funeral staff will shortly be receiving brand new uniforms as the society rolls out the stylish, yet practical outfits produced by celebrity designer Jeff Banks.
United commissioned the former Clothes Show presenter and his team at Midlands-based Incorporate Wear to provide a ?new look' for its funeral division personnel and are delighted with the results.
As the new uniforms were unveiled at United's Stoke-on-Trent headquarters, Chief Executive Peter Marks commented: "Fashion and funerals are perhaps a strange mix, but this society has never been afraid to innovate.
"We are currently the country's fourth largest funeral service, but our vision is to be number one in terms of the service we provide and these quality uniforms will help us achieve that goal."
Mr Marks said the society would be spending millions of pounds on acquiring funeral businesses and building and upgrading premises and the investment in the new uniforms was part of the strategy to improve what is essentially a people-facing business.
Jeff Banks admitted that the United contract was his company's first foray into the funeral industry, but said that good taste and application of design were crucial ingredients.
"The design of uniforms can add revererence but should not overstep the mark," he advised. "Nothing is quite as delicate as the job done by funeral personnel, but when staff are dealing with difficult personal and emotional situations, it is important they feel good and look good themselves."
Mr Banks, who accepted a cheque form Peter Marks on behalf of the Sport Relief charity, said he was planning a cycle ride from Lands End to John o' Groats to raise funds for the organisation – with an additional mile to be run at the end of the journey.
"Going the extra mile is the most difficult thing for any individual or organisation, but I hope the new uniforms will help United Co-op's funeral staff go the extra mile at a critical point in someone's life," he said.