With the rising need for healthcare and similar services in this country, you’re well aware of the increased demand for medical professionals, from doctors to nurses and everywhere in-between. One thing that also bears mentioning is that there are a lot of fields adjacent to those professions that are experiencing high demand as well, like companies that provide scrubs for medical professionals. If you’re interested in breaking into this field, there’s plenty of reasons to. This article will cover how scrubs became big business in the first place, and how to carve out your own niche in this lucrative field.

The History of The Scrub Business

Keeping over 19 million healthcare workers clothed is no small feat, especially when you realize that that’s roughly 1/7 of all workers. The basic origin of this started all the way back in the early 1900s. At the time, while nurses generally had their own uniforms, they were the exception to the rule. Other professionals, even including surgeons, weren’t even thinking about sterilized clothing, simply wearing whatever they had. Things started to change when the Spanish flu pandemic hit, and suddenly, there was a newfound understanding of infections, but innovations were generally focused more on masks to protect the surgeons rather than creating a sterile environment.

When the 1940s hit, the idea of aseptic medical environments finally took hold, and the first operating room attire became regularly used, generally in white. However, there was one minor issue with this version. There was a lot of brightness in those environments, between the white scrubs, heavy use of lights, and white surroundings. This led to potential for eyestrain, and scrubs ended up becoming the various green shades you see today. Along with minimizing eyestrain, these also made blood and other stains less obvious.

The final major step in the development of modern scrubs ended up being the use of different colors and patterns to help differentiate between different patient care departments and assistive personnel/staff.

Fast-forward to today, when it comes to medical apparel, if you put it in its own standalone business, you would see that its profits rank just right along the top retailers in the world, ahead of companies like Foot Locker and Tiffany. There are a few reasons for this. For one, a recent Bloomberg article profiling Strategic Partners, one of the largest medical apparel companies in the world, explains how “Most of the folks who wear scrubs have to buy their own, despite the fact the job typically requires them, be it a hospital, doctor’s, dentist’s, or veterinarian’s office.” However, this also leaves an area for opportunity.

Staking Your Own Claim In The Scrub Business

How can one create opportunity in an area where one company has over 40% of the marketshare?  FIGS founder Trina Spear explains what drove her to launch her own startup, after seeing Strategic Partners’ numbers. “It’s a massive industry that no one knows about and no one talks about,” she said. “It’s been around for about 100 years with zero change and zero innovation.”FIGS stands apart by branching out into lab coats, hoodies, and “underscrubs,” which are essentially T-shirts.

So, while like many fields, medical scrubs has its titans, there is also plenty of room for innovation, and this is where you have a chance to stand apart. Even if you’re not interested in creating your own line of scrubs, it’s possible to benefit from the popularity of this field by becoming a scrubs and uniform retailer.

Getting started here isn’t difficult, but note that you are going to need a special business license if you want to sell medical apparel. However, there are sources to help you navigate this initial step, like the Uniform Retailers Association (URA). This non-profit is designed to help independent retailers grow. The next step is going to be choosing what manufacturers you want to sell with. You need to decide here what you’re trying to target. For example, a younger audience may be more interested in some of the new changes in scrubs that we mentioned FIGS does. However, if you know you are going to be selling at a heavy volume, then it may make sense to work with a larger manufacturer that you know can fill your orders.

While medical scrubs may come from humble beginnings, it’s clear that there is still plenty of room for the industry to grow, and no sign that they’re going to go out of use. While many manufacturers may be debating about comfort, protection, and variance in appearance, it’s easy to ride the wave to business success for yourself.

By Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to [email protected].