1st Coverall Co

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by 1st Coverall Co's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from 1st Coverall Co is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Director Sadie Cunningham
New uniforms for the
security department at the
Houses of Parliament
Sadie Cunningham founded 1st Coverall with her father in
1996 after the pair of them had been made redundant.
Prior to that, she had worked as a secretary, and he had
been a Savile Row tailor. Twenty-three years on, their company
now supplies specialist uniforms for The University of Edinburgh,
St Thomas’ Hospital and the Houses of Parliament. Sadie says
that the key to their past success has been a dedicated and
committed staff team that appreciate and enjoy the atmosphere
of a family-run business that go the extra mile.
After leaving Savile Row, my father went on to work for a uniform supplier
making specialist laboratory clothing for companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline
alongside universities. He and I were made redundant around the same time, as
was my mother; with one typewriter and an industrial sewing machine in our
garage, I went out knocking on doors to start sales.
In 2014 – 18 years on – we worked on a contract for the Medical Research Council
producing long-sleeved scrub suits, unconventional for the healthcare sector. They
recommended that we apply for a tender to continue our work with them. After
winning it, we saw that Hillingdon London Borough Council were also advertising
a contract. We won that, too. Since then, we’ve just carried on applying for more
and more tenders and hope to continue winning them.
The family-run business people love to work with
We’re now in the third generation of Cunninghams at 1st Coverall – my nephew
works in our warehousing department – and even though we’re approaching
»Directors: Sadie, Harry, Luke
and Myles Cunningham
»Established in 1996
»Based in Maidstone, Kent
»Services: Corporate clothing
and workwear
»No. of employees: 12
»All embroidery and printing is
carried out in-house
1st Coverall Co
Highlighting best practice
a turnover of £3 million for this
financial year, that family-run feel
still permeates through every level
of the business. It’s a really simple
thing; everyone stays on the same
page in all areas of what we do and
everyone remains dedicated. Our
clients appreciate this and our staff
love to work here – that’s why we’ve
continued to win contracts.
Alongside that, our proximity to London
does help, too. It means clients see
someone every week, that we can
always deliver when we say we’re going
to and we can build a rapport over
continually positive customer service.
We’re able to forge that personal,
appreciative relationship in areas where
multinationals may often struggle.
In spite of our situation near the capital,
however, we do operate nationwide.
Our furthest client by geographical
distance is The University of Edinburgh;
we also work with seven councils in the
North East, St Thomas’ Hospital and
The Bond Group, who supply a vast
majority of Nisa stores across the UK.
Making everything about the
Our staff team work tirelessly – “going
the extra mile” may sound like a cliché,
but it’s a philosophy we swear by.
As our management team also work
across every level of the business, we
pride ourselves on not asking other
team members to do anything we
wouldn’t. Everyone remains invested –
and customers always appreciate that.
Staff dedication isn’t the only defining
characteristic of our customer service,
however. We have also developed
specialist software for the customer-
facing area of our website to establish
an online shop. When a client logs in,
they are presented with relevant tabs for
garments and input their own orders.
They are then presented with a viewer
for any additional embroidery and
fields for alterations they would require
– streamlining our original process of
merely taking orders by email.
For many of our contracts, we also go
as far as delivery and logistics for the
client. In our work with the Houses of
Parliament, we hand-assembled 350
different bags of clothing, one for
each member of the security team,
and recognise this is often something
a competitor wouldn’t do; even if they
did, they would undoubtedly charge
for it. We didn’t.
In short, we recognise the importance
of building a trusting relationship with
clients and establishing a rapport.
Adapting to their needs and working
as they need you to is of paramount
Regulatory concerns and
winning tenders on day one
All of our suppliers have to meet EU
regulations; high-visibility clothing,
for example, has to meet stringent
guidelines as dictated by EN471, a
European standard in that regard.
While we now only use suppliers that
meet this standard and many others,
and we have over 350 at our disposal
who meet all mandatory and some
non-mandatory guidelines, putting
together such a list was easier said
than done in the early days.
Our own size has been proven to be
something of a historical challenge,
too. Until we had won tenders for
contracts such as St Thomas’ Hospital
and the Houses of Parliament, people
didn’t seem to be interested in working
with us. Now we are able to proudly
state those accolades and use them as
marks of our quality and consistency,
our sales process really was just 18
years of knocking on doors.
Over the past few years, however, our
success has dramatically improved, as
indicated by these contracts with large
Sadie’s father, Harry
It’s a really
simple thing;
everyone stays
on the same
page in all
areas of what
we do and
institutions, and given that tenders are
typically a minimum of two years, we
look forward to continued relationships
with our current clients.
2016’s unique challenges
In June 2016, exchange rates
plummeted overnight. When you’re
in a contract and you’ve committed to
supplying a polo shirt at £3.95, and
your supplier puts up material prices as
a consequence of currency fluctuation,
difficulties naturally emerge. Clients
won’t accept a price hike at short
notice – and finding a suitable
alternative garment that matches
criteria to ensure you don’t run at a
loss is very difficult.
We tried to get customers to understand
that some things were out of our
control. Not only had pricing increased
across the board, but suppliers had cut
back on stock because they couldn’t
afford to bring in garments which had
increased in price overnight.
Continuing to win tenders
When I was told by my children’s class
teachers that they wanted parents
to come in and talk about the area
of industry they worked in, I used to
wonder what I’d speak about.
Most people just thought of us as
a T-shirt supplier – but now, as we
approach a £3 million turnover,
continue to win tenders and work with
such prestigious institutions as the
Houses of Parliament, I feel I can talk
confidently about what we do at 1st
Coverall – how we started and how
hard work reaps rewards.
We couldn’t have achieved such
landmark milestones without the
dedication of our staff team, and
I want to recognise them for their
outstanding commitment to what we
Going forward, I want to employ
more staff who remain dedicated
to our culture and ethos, retain the
team members we currently have and,
altogether, just keep everyone happy in
a positive working environment. That
way, we can push forward together
and continue to enjoy success.
Our staff team
work tirelessly
– “going the
extra mile” may
sound like a
cliché, but it’s a
philosophy we
swear by
Earlier this year, we provided the security team at the Houses of
Parliament with new uniforms. We were honoured to be awarded
that contract, and over a period of several months we visited separate
departments at least once a week to visit and establish exactly what
the team wants.
As the rebrand will see new uniforms for 350 members of staff, my
father and I have had to measure many individual staff members,
along with Sharina Valace and Karen Suggars of the Houses of
Parliament’s security department, collate uniform sizes and prepare
15 or more garments for each person. While this was no small
feat, we delivered on it in April and look forward to our continued
relationship in Westminster.
Sadie with Milena, 1st
Coverall’s office manager


This article was sponsored by 1st Coverall Co. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster