The Right Fit
In our sister magazine, Promo Marketing, we know a thing or two about promotional apparel. From T-shirts and outerwear to color trends and how to stay on budget—we’ve covered it all. Looking to learn the ways of decorated apparel? Check out this collection of some of our best pointers below.
ON KEEPING COSTS DOWN
1. FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN COST AND PRICE
When working with a tight budget, the temptation may be to suggest the cheapest product you can find. It’s often better, however, to structure your pitch around “most effective” rather than “most affordable.” Companies need promotional products for a reason, and it’s usually not “saving money.” Find the item(s) that will best fulfill that reason, then work on getting it within their budget afterward. When money is tight, companies will be much more willing to spend on something they know will work, rather than something that’s just “affordable enough.”
“Whenever customers are on a tight budget, we usually suggest they stick with a better product in a lower price-point category than buying something of inferior quality,” said Gina Barreca, director of marketing for Vantage Apparel, Avenel, N.J. Using the example of nonprofits, she pointed out that even though money can be tight with a company, getting the message out is still the most important goal, so it rarely makes sense to skimp on quality if you can help it. “With most nonprofits, getting their message out is the most important goal, so you wouldn’t want to go with something so inexpensive that recipients will not wear it,” Barreca explained.
2. SEEK SUPPLIER COMPARISON GUIDES
If you’re struggling to find the best product at the right price, Barreca suggested using a “product comparison guide” as a helpful way to narrow down choices. Some suppliers, such as Vantage Apparel, offer feature-versus-price comparison guides on their products, providing an easy-to-follow visual way to differentiate products by cost versus attributes offered. It makes explaining the “flow of value” a little easier to clients, and also makes picking items like “the most affordable fashion tee” or “most durable basic crew neck” simpler.
3. TO SAVE DOLLARS, GO DIGITAL
“For smaller quantity orders, consider digital printing,” said Barreca. Digital printing favors smaller orders since there’s no setup cost. The machinery is always ready to go and doesn’t require the creation of physical templates or plates, as is the case with many forms of non-digital printing.
4. TO SAVE MORE, SIMPLIFY
If digital printing is out, have a plan to reduce decoration costs in other ways. Cost-reduction can be as simple as keeping it small and to a standard location, or it can be more complex. Redesigning a logo to be a one-color silhouette, for example, can reduce decoration cost, but also may involve a little more work and time.
1. FASHION IS IN
According to Margaret Crow, director of marketing at S&S Activewear, Bolingbrook, Ill., fashion T-shirts are more in demand in the promotional products industry than ever before. “It used to be that basic T-shirts were the only ones being screen printed. But now fashion T-shirts—burnouts, combed ring-spun cotton and trendy silhouettes—are being shown printed at retail, so promotional products dealers are asking for and buying more trendy styles,” she observed.
Crow added that customers selling printed shirts at restaurants, museums, resorts and similar locations are finding more success if the shirts show their message on a variety of fashion T-shirt options.
Mary Ellen Nichols, MAS, director of marketing communications for Bodek and Rhodes, Philadelphia, also subscribes to the theory that there is room for fashion in this market. “Our younger buyers and style-watchers are demanding fashion, just like they see in the retail stores. There is not only room for fashion, but a place for fashion, and it is a predominant place,” she stressed. “Our young buyers now making purchasing decisions were bred on fashion and brand names. They will continue that choice with their promotional wear.”
2. HIT HARD BY GOING SOFT
Suppliers and manufacturers are working to increase the value of T-shirts by making the fabric longer-lasting and more comfortable. Bill Pellegrini, eastern regional sales manager for Alstyle Apparel, Anaheim, Calif., mentioned a move toward softer T-shirts. “There has been a gradual movement over the past few years to finer gauge cloth using combed/ring-spun cotton. These shirts have a softer hand and drape well on the wearer,” he said.
3. NEW SHAPES FOR AN OLD FAVORITE
If you want to add more modernity to your new, softer imprinted tees, try exaggerated lengths and necklines. “Several mills are adding a little length to their tees—a trend that continues into 2012. And you’ll see more drapey, flowy tees for a more retail look,” said Cindy J. Sims, PR and promotions manager at Heritage Sportswear Inc., Hebron, Ohio. The retail, fashion look can add value to the tees for your clients. “More companies are looking for perceived value to promote their brand,” said Pellegrini.
4. THINK BEFORE YOU INK
If distributors need to know where to place a logo on a promotional piece, they must find out the objective, the market, the message and artwork. “What is the goal of the advertiser?” asked Nichols. “What does the logo look like? Sure, we could say to slap it on the front center, but perhaps a more subtle left-chest design is better, or a band print at the bottom, or a diagonal print, or an all-over print or a sleeve imprint,” she said.
5. DIFFERENT PITCHES FOR DIFFERENT CLIENTS
As fashion evolves, comfort and versatility gain more ground. As a result, T-shirts and tanks are becoming a regular staple in wardrobes for all age groups. That doesn’t mean, however, that every T-shirt and tank can be sold the same way. Distributors must consider the most appropriate marketing strategy based on the end-user.
Nichols insisted that the young contemporary styles have to be promoted differently. For example, they should be styled differently and shown on younger models. “These young buyers want to see themselves wearing the garment,” she said. “They also want to feel the hand of the garment before they buy. They are not concerned with spending a few extra dollars to make their shirt the ‘new favorite shirt’ in the drawer. Softness is that important to them.”
Crow offered an additional pointer: Know what your buyer is interested in. She explained that the same burnout football tee can be sold to a concert promoter and to a cheerleading camp, but the message should be specific for these two groups. “To the concert promoter, it’s a cutting-edge fabric; to the cheerleading camp, it’s the team colors and athletic striping that make the sale. Taking the extra step to point out the benefits to each group will increase your sales,” she said.
ON ATHLETIC AND PERFORMANCE APPAREL
1. ACTIVEWEAR, NOT ACTIVE-TEAR
“We believe activewear that can best support an athlete’s routine should be able to endure the day-to-day wear-and-tear of constant practice,” said Christina Botkins, account manager of Tonix Corporation, Fremont, Calif. She listed other popular features such as UV protection on outerwear pieces and quick-dry properties on performance polos.
2. FOR GOLF APPAREL, COMFORT IS KEY
Comfortable garments are imperative because golfers will be outside for hours. “Players need to stay comfortable no matter the conditions they face,” said Joel Freet, national sales manager, corporate, for Seattle-based Cutter & Buck, adding that you should research the climate and weather predictions for the golf event you are supplying. “It is so easy to think of polos for a golf outing, but so often the weather is unpredictable across the country in the spring,” he said. For these unpredictable days, Freet suggested lightweight and quick-drying materials like the 100 percent polyester mesh material featured on the company’s Genre Polo.
3. LEARN YOUR CLIENT’S SPORT
“Get educated on the usage of the items—events, uniforms, gifts and the expected season, and you can use this information to determine what type of products will make for the most satisfied customer,” instructed Freet.
ON JACKETS AND OUTERWEAR
1. DECORATE DIFFERENTLY
“Since many outerwear garments are made from synthetic materials or from a combination of many different fabrics and trims, embellishing them can be a lot different than a traditional cotton tee,” said Marcus Davis, merchandising manager for branded printwear, Hanesbrands Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C. Robert Klein, president of Pella Products Inc., Pella, Iowa, agreed. “Synthetic fabrics require different dyes than all cottons and blends,” he said.
Davis advised those interested in selling outerwear to get to know ink suppliers for the best imprints. “It’s best to discuss with an ink supplier what inks and machine settings they recommend for each particular jacket based on its construction and fabric,” he said. Davis also noted direct-to-garment printing is a good option for fleece and cotton items.
2. DECORATIONS ARE NOT ONE-SIZE FITS ALL
Fred Haws, owner and president of Haws USA, Apex, N.C., cautioned distributors to be wary of potential decorating difficulties. “Before an order is wrapped up, make sure the logo, the logo size and the logo location work before accepting the order,” Haws said.
“Sometimes we see orders come through that because of the thickness of the jacket, or because of an inside pocket, etc., a certain logo can’t work,” he continued. “That conversation should be held prior on this work.”
3. CONSIDER EXTRA FLOURISHES FOR LADIES STYLES
The industry continues to strive for well-fit garments, with more women’s fits available. “Women’s specific details include adjustability at the waist to slim the silhouette of the body versus the traditional adjustable systems at the hem,” Elson Yeung, product line manager of design at Ash City USA, Lenexa, Kan., said. “This offers great personalized tailoring with the simple touch of an adjustable tab or cinch of a shock cord,” he added. Small details such as detachable hoods will also set women’s designs apart from their men’s companion styles. Yeung noted end-buyers have requested this change. “Our detachable hood system was applied to a few of our women’s styles versus their non-hooded men’s companion styles. This decision was based on preferences directly from the feedback of our customers,” he explained.
4. BEAT BAD WEATHER WITH “GARMENT OVERSIZING”
Putting function over fashion is common for outerwear, with good reason. A chic trench means nothing if it can’t combat snow or fit over a sweater. Klein explained why “garment oversizing” is one of the most important elements in creating functional and durable coats. “Some garments are cut to fit over several layers of clothing (such as a heavy parka), while others are cut to fit over just a regular shirt,” he said.
For distributors, picking the right “oversize” is easy, just look to the activity. “A trim fit depends on selecting a size that works best with the activity chosen,” Klein said. He also noted that workwear and uniforms are less “style-dependent” than everyday wear. If you are looking for outerwear to be worn on off time, try a bomber jacket.
5. CONSIDER A UNIFORM PROGRAM
Many companies rent or lease workwear from laundry programs, but Haws explained that some companies are beginning to purchase jackets and other workwear items outright as a cost-saving measure. For suppliers, these informal uniform programs can result in residual orders.
“Once a company gets into a uniform program, they continue to order as new people enter the company,” said Haws. “They need another jacket, they need four pairs of pants, they need two shirts and a jacket—once that relationship gets started with a program, that residual revolving door works well with a workwear program.”
- Alstyle Apparel